Thomas Pieters Explains Shock LIV Golf Move - 'I Decided Last Summer'

Thomas Pieters says the call to join LIV Golf only came a week before the season but he made the decision last summer

Thomas Pieters takes a shot at the 2022 Dubai Desert Classic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Thomas Pieters has revealed that he decided he wanted to join LIV Golf last summer, but only got the chance at the last minute due to an injury to Hudson Swafford.

The Belgian had risen to number 34 in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) to propel himself back into the Ryder Cup reckoning, but made the move to LIV Golf just a week before the new season begins in Mexico.

Pieters told The Telegraph that he had made the decision to join LIV Golf last summer, but only got a late opportunity when American Swafford suffered a hip injury that would see him miss most of the season.

“I had a call on Thursday not even a week ago, asking if I wanted Hudson’s spot,” Pieters told The Telegraph’s golf correspondent James Corrigan.

“To be truthful, in my heart, I decided last summer that I wanted to join LIV. But it was not until a few days ago I got the opportunity.

“You don’t wish ill on anyone and I hope Hudson gets recovered soon, but as a professional you have to grasp chances when they arise.

“Of course, I have done this with my family and our daughters (Florence and June, aged two and three months) at the forefront of our thinking. It has been a whirlwind since then, really, sorting everything out and getting everything ready over the weekend. I had to tell everybody, for one thing.”

Pieters made a sparkling Ryder Cup debut in 2016 with a rookie-record four points out of five in a losing European effort at Valhalla, but has not been back in the team since.

With the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and, worst of all, supposed European captain Henrik Stenson all joining LIV, the hosts will have plenty of new faces for Rome in September.

Pieters, then, was making a move up the rankings and well-fancied to get in given how well he played on American soil in 2016, and he admits that it was a big blow having to tell Luke Donald that he was joining LIV.

“I swapped texts with Luke, but he is in a tough position isn’t he,” Thomas added. “It was a difficult decision for me, for sure. The Ryder Cup has always been an ambition and it was a dream to play in 2016. I’ve been trying to get back ever since.

“I enjoyed the Hero Cup last month and naturally would love to be in Rome. But I accept the consequences of this choice, whatever they turn out to be.”

With the legal case still ongoing on whether the DP World Tour can ban LIV Golf rebels, it seems highly unlikely that anyone in Greg Norman’s outfit will play in the Ryder Cup – but Pieters will not give up hope.

“I haven’t given up on playing in it again, including this year even,” Pieters said. “We will have to see. I could still qualify. I’m in all the majors this year.

“Well, I hope the US Open. Maybe, I can play so well until that it’ll make it very difficult not to pick me. I don't know. Maybe that will not be possible.”

Pieters is keen to emphasise that the lighter playing schedule is better for him both professionally as a golfer but also as a father of young children.

With his home still back in Antwerp in Belgium, Pieters says that even with a more global LIV schedule, playing fewer tournaments is much better for him both on and off the course.

“I have never wanted to play full-time on the PGA Tour, because I don't think you can do that and live where I want,” said Pieters.

“With LIV it is eight weeks in America, sure, but with 14 in total that is preferable for me and my game. Of course, with the two daughters it is all attractive.

“I’ve struggled playing 26 events a year, to be honest. The best season Adam (his caddie Adam Marrow) and I have had was last year when I  played only 19 and before when it was only 22 or something. As a father it suits me to have a lighter schedule, but also as a golfer.”

Pieters has been brought in to join Bubba Watson's RangeGoats side in the LIV Golf League, playing alongside Harold Varner III and Talor Gooch.

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.