AUSTIN, Texas — Belgian golfer Thomas Pieters will play his first round WGC Dell Match Play Championship match against Adam Scott this afternoon with a heavy heart and a resolute spirit, after terrorist attacks in his home country, still not knowing the fate of some of his friends in the attack.
He was resting in his hotel room early Tuesday getting ready for his final practice round at Austin Country Club, when his cell phone started buzzing repeatedly with American and Belgian friends and family wanting him to know about the terror attack which claimed dozens of lives in the capital of Brussels, Belgium.
While his family was safe from the airport and subway attacks, he knew others that were likely in the subway at the time of the bomb blasts.
“It’s shocking to see the images and the videos, it’s a sad day,” said Pieters shortly before his practice session got underway at ACC.
He lives in Antwerp, Belgium (about an hour away from Brussels), with his entire extended family and regularly flies out of the international airport in Brussels, which was hit by the terror attacks.
“I am not scared to fly, but it does cross your mind. I think you can’t live in fear, that’s what they tried to do,” he said. “If you’re at the bad place at the bad time, then those guys win. But I don’t think you should change the way you travel.”
Ranked 57th in the Official World Golf Ranking and playing in only his second WGC event, Pieters said he briefly considered withdrawing, but decided to show strength for his country and his friends by teeing it up with Adam Scott, ranked sixth, in today’s first round.
“If I want, I could go home and be with my friends right now, but I like golf and I’m very happy to be here,” Pieters said. “At the end of the day, it’s golf. It’s just a job.”
Pieters, who turned professional in 2013 and won two European Tour events last year, said he was shocked by the devastation and death in a place he knows so well.
“At breakfast, I was scrolling down to see if there was a new article every five minutes. I’m not going to moan this week, that’s for sure. I just don’t get it. So many innocent people.”
World No. 1 player Jordan Spieth said he was equally shocked by the terrorist attacks in Belgium, but said it was too soon to see how they would impact international trips he’s planned to Scotland for the British Open and Argentina for the Summer Olympics.
“Fortunately, I feel safe over here. But it makes you feel a bit uneasy, doesn’t it?” Spieth said. “So it may, in fact, yeah, it may, kind of call you off or at least hesitate a bit more on decisions like that.”