AUGUSTA, Ga. — Thomas Pieters was always going to remember his first official round at the Masters. The question was whether the Masters rookie would remember it fondly or not.
After getting to five under through 10 holes on Thursday at Augusta National, the gusty wind conditions got the best of the 25-year-old Belgian, who limped home with a back-nine 40 for an even-par 72.
Despite the potential for a sinking “what might have been” feeling, Pieters, one of the long hero’s for last year’s European Ryder Cup team, walked away content with his debut at Augusta.
“I know I’m hitting it well,” Pieters said. “I just have to stay really, really patient. And I think I did a good job with that.”
Pieters was cruising with five birdies through his first 10 holes before a wayward tee shot on the par-4 11th led to his first bogey. Then on the par-3 12th, he hit an 8-iron that got knocked down in the wind, the ball landing in the middle of Rae’s Creek and setting up a double-bogey 5.
“If you catch the wrong gust at the wrong time, then you look stupid,” Pieters said. “Like I did on 12. But that’s just Augusta, I guess.”
A par on the 13th meant Pieters finished his first official trip around Amen Corner in three over.
After a bogey-birdie exchange on the 15th and 16th holes, Pieters stumbled again on the 18th. A pulled tee shot into the pine straw left was followed by an approach that snuck into the right greenside bunker. Attempting to get up and down to save par and take the clubhouse lead, Pieters hit his third to 12 feet and proceeded to three-putt for a double-bogey 6.
Despite the finish, Pieters walked away from the round with some positive vibes. “I didn’t miss a shot the first 10 holes,” he said. “And I feel like I didn’t really miss any today. It might look like it on the back nine, but I feel like I really didn’t. I’m happy with the way I’m striking the ball.”