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For Thomas Pieters, a debut appearance at this week’s Players Championship will be more special than for most. That’s because the Belgian has revealed that he turned down the opportunity to compete in it five years ago, instead electing to go skiing.
The 30-year-old admits that he regrets the decision, as per a report in Golf Digest: “Thinking about it now, it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, probably. I mean, look around, this tournament looks unbelievable. And I said no to it.” Nevertheless, despite opting to spend his time in the Alps for the 2017 tournament, he says that, back then, he was suffering from loneliness as part of the PGA Tour: “I hated my life at that point. This is a lonely place for Europeans sometimes. Everybody has their cliques and travels with their families, which I get. I totally get. But I didn’t know anybody out here. I had nothing to look forward to after rounds. Just spending so many nights alone in a hotel room, so many dinners by myself.”
Recently, Pieters has competed in the PGA Tour's Genesis Open on a sponsor's invite and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, he's predominantly on the DP World Tour - and playing well. He won won the Portugal Masters in November before following that up with victory in January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for his first Rolex Series title. Pieters admits more European golf would have suited him back then, too: “It was different in Europe because I had the Belgians I could hang out with. Yeah, I was lonely and I was going back and forth so much, and I had just had enough.” Pieters also credits his family for turning his mentality around: “I have a family now. I have something to look forward to off the golf course."
With Pieters’ eye-catching form and settled life away from the course, a player who was once one of the game’s hottest prospects finally gets to compete in one of the game’s biggest tournaments this week – and with thoughts of the ski slopes far from his mind.
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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