Masters 2017: One day Thomas Pieters will appreciate his T-4 in his Masters debut, just not right now


Harry How

AUGUSTA, Ga. — You’d think Thomas Pieters would take some solace in a T-4 finish at his first Masters. And yet the 25-year-old Belgian never believed being a rookie should prohibit him from contending at Augusta National Golf Club. So while a Sunday 68 would be more than acceptable for most players, for Pieters it was a reminder of what might have been.

If not for a sloppy final eight holes on Thursday (in which he stumbled with two bogeys and two double bogeys for a back-nine 40), and another closing hiccup on Saturday (back-nine 38), Pieters may well have defied the odds and become the first player to win a green jacket in his Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Instead, his five-under 283 total left him four strokes out of the playoff between Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

Trying to summarize his performance for the day, and the week, the former NCAA champion bit his lip as he searched for positives.

“Yeah, I’m happy the way I fought back after yesterday, a poor round and a lot of bad swings and today I put a lot of good swings on my ball,” Pieters said. “[But it’s] still a bit disappointed with the way I finished.”

This is what happens when you’ve won three European Tour titles before turning 25 and you’ve been a surprise standout in the Ryder Cup. Your expectations grow larger.

But to put Pieters performance in perspective, in just his third major championship start, this is by far his best performance after a T-30 at the Open Championship and a missed cut at the PGA Championship a year ago.

But when you’re focused on winning, anything else feels like you're coming up short. Asked his goal going forward, Pieters coyly noted: “To finish better. Maybe two, three, better than this would be nice.”