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May 16, 2018
NEIL AHERN: Thank you very much for joining us for this press conference at The Belgian Knockout.
I've obviously got on my right three players who need no introduction but I'll introduce them any ways: Nicolas Colsaerts, Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry. I'll just ask you guys a couple of questions, and then we'll open it up to the floor.
I'll begin with you, Nico. I suppose you're the veteran of this group, the Godfather of Belgium golf at the moment. Is that too soon?
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: Well, I've got the voice right now because I've got a cold.
NEIL AHERN: How does it feel to have a tournament back here in Belgium. You played in '98 and '99 as an amateur, but it's been a long time.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: It's been strange because I've been traveling the circus for almost 20 years now, and never really had to deal with playing in front of home crowds and seeing faces that I've known for 20 years, just a bit strange. But I mean, I think everything sets up for the week. I always was going to be supportive of the initiative.
I think that they have had plenty of surprises along the way. When you try to put a tournament like this for the first time, but I mean, God knows how long they are going to do it, but I'm sure with time, they are going to get better at it, which is going to be good for earn.
NEIL AHERN: You have quite a bit of pedigree in match play. It's not quite match play, but you're used to that back-and-forth and you've obviously very good at it.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: Everybody talks about the format, but let's not forget that there is two stroke-play rounds before to qualify.
But yeah, the format seems, it's quite appealing, because you know, match play can get quickly done, where here, when you play nine holes against somebody you're never really far off a hole where you can have a two- if not a three-shot swing.
So the idea of the two nines coming to the clubhouse in front of the people, and we all know people tend to stay at the clubhouse which is a great thing, so I think the choice is right.
NEIL AHERN: Thomas, I think you were seven years of age the last time an event was played in Belgium.
THOMAS DETRY: I was there.
NEIL AHERN: Do you remember?
THOMAS DETRY: Royal Zoute, I remember going there with my parents. That's the last time I have any memory of the Belgium open, so it's quite fun to have another event here in this country and playing in front of some home crowd.
NEIL AHERN: Can you tell us about your match-play experience or your experience in different formats? I know you played GolfSixes.
THOMAS DETRY: Yeah, I played GolfSixes which was a lot of fun. I played Perth, as well, did quite well. I enjoy that format a lot. I have quite a decent record as an amateur in match play, as well. Played a lot of the Palmer Cup, which is Europe against the USA, so I enjoy that format. Very excited. I'm excited to play well the first two days and then see what the weekend has for us.
NEIL AHERN: Thomas, move on to you. Very, very special week for you. Have you been out there putting up boards and sticking up posters, or have you stepped aside and let the family do all the work.
THOMAS PIETERS: It's all the family.
NEIL AHERN: Can you talk about the experience and where this tournament came from?
THOMAS PIETERS: Two years ago on a skiing holiday, after, post-Ryder Cup and everything that had happened, I thought we -- or we felt that it was time for us to have a tournament again. I think golf had been in a good, upward spiral, with us three, as well, on Tour.
Yeah, it's been two years in the making and it's been cool to see it come to life now.
NEIL AHERN: You've spoken before about Nico's influence on you. Are you very conscious of how much kids look up to you guys and how important this week is for, I suppose, the future development of Belgian golf?
THOMAS PIETERS: Yeah, I love doing stuff with the kids in Belgium, as well. I go to some of the trainings with the Flemish Golf Federation, and it is cool. It's only when you spend time with them, how much they look up to you.
NEIL AHERN: So can you tell me about your game at the moment and how you're looking forward to this week and how you'll deal with the different pressures of being a host and a home player?
THOMAS PIETERS: I just look forward to the format. I think it's different than just match play, because like Nico said, you still need to put two really good rounds together to get on the weekend but then it's like you need to putt the score on those nines. You can't go out, double, double, then you're kind of out of it. It's a different mind-set, as well, I think.
I think a lot more players will have a chance to win.
Q. Can you sum up a little bit at the beginning of your season?
THOMAS PIETERS: Yeah, there's probably more to talk with these two about their start of the season of the first tournament, good. The rest, bad. It's been a bit of a struggle lately, but I feel like my game's very good at the moment. I'm just waiting for that one little spark. You know, golf is not always like this (indicating upward). It's ups and downs. You need to stay patient and just keep doing what you're doing and believe in the process, or whatever they call it.
Q. But you didn't change anything in your way to play?
THOMAS PIETERS: No. Sometimes they just don't drop, those putts.
Q. Especially at the Masters, you were very disappointed, I suppose?
THOMAS PIETERS: Of course, yeah, yeah. It's a tournament I put a lot of focus on. It's just cool to be there and then, you know, if you lose concentration a little bit, it goes very quick on that course. That one bad nine on Friday on the front nine, and that was kind of me not done, but I really struggled to make, to, have a chance to make the cut.
Q. About concentration, is it easy to keep concentration?
THOMAS PIETERS: No.
Q. And here, especially, it's not that easy.
THOMAS PIETERS: I've kind of been away from my family the last couple of weeks just because they have had a lot of stress and a lot of stuff to do. I've prepared in my way, and I think that they have done a hell of a job here.
Q. You kept the same routine to come to this tournament as the other one?
THOMAS DETRY: It's been a steady start to the season. Nothing amazing but some good finishes. I think I've had two Top 10s and three top 25S and some decent events. It's been pretty weird for us with all March, very empty month of March with no tournament pretty much. So I've been trying to keep busy, practising, going over to the U.S., practising with friends.
But yeah, now it's pretty much like a new start to the season again. The big events are coming up. We've got this big tournament here for us and then two big Rolex Series coming up and then June, July, as well, so two big months coming up.
Yeah, I'm excited and feel ready and I'm excited to play those next few months.
NEIL AHERN: Nico, you've had a few distractions in the last few months, anyway.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: You think? Yeah, of course, a little bit of mixed emotions because I played the first couple events of the year while my wife was still pregnant, so I could somehow concentrate on golf still.
I did a couple of weeks that were okay, not very far from being fine to start the year, but then of course, I stayed home for six or seven weeks when she gave birth, and it was one of the most intense moments of my life.
So the focus of playing well is always there because that's what I've always done, but in the other hand, it's difficult to be committed 100 per cent to develop because I know that that's going to be a part of my life that I want to commit fully to, and we've had an unbelievable time for the last couple of months. I mean, every time you go and get him in his bed, he throws you a big smile. Doesn't really matter if you missed the cut in China the week before.
Like Thomas said, there's two nice stretches of tournaments to deal with now where I've always felt that the season really starts when you're coming in the month of April, May, where the big tournament starts and the schedule is there and places that I may be a bit more familiar with or played well on numerous occasions.
So yeah, so that's behind me now, and I would like to look a bit forward to what's coming next.
Q. How different is the mind-set in the season, how does it compare to when you were younger, coming up?
THOMAS PIETERS: I'm not going to lie; I've struggled with it because you guys put out this image of me, obviously, but my goals are different. So I think it's a learning curve and I need to learn how to deal with it and do my own thing.
You know, I think I'll get better at it once time goes on and I learn how to cope with different things about media and expectations and stuff like that.
Q. How hard is it to be in the full spotlight now? We know that you are not a person who likes to be in the spotlight. How do you deal with that now?
THOMAS PIETERS: I've been pretty relaxed this week.
Q. Will it be different when you're stepping out on the first tee? It's just one of the 46 tournaments on The European Tour.
THOMAS PIETERS: I think it's just going to be really cool to see familiar faces and all my friends, friends that have never watched golf, either on TV or live. I mean, I know all my friends are coming and they are really excited to see me play. I can show them that golf, it's a sport, and they can actually enjoy it for once.
Q. I read maybe something happened which was not good for your focus.
THOMAS PIETERS: No.
Q. Were you maybe a little bit distracted by the promotion of this tournament during the other tournaments?
THOMAS PIETERS: No, not really.
Q. Because it's your role in this organisation.
THOMAS PIETERS: Yeah, it was, but I enjoy talking to the players and trying to get them to come play, but I think once we do the tournament, it goes once and it's going to be a success -- I think it's going to be a success, hopefully we get some more, and good, deep field for next year.
Q. Your opinion on the comeback of Tiger Woods, and what does it mean, him coming back for the sport?
THOMAS PIETERS: You can have that one since you've been watching Tiger for a longer time.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: Well, my opinion is, it's actually pretty surprising to see where he was a couple of months or in the last couple years, and how quickly he's been able with all the health issues and of course the story, we know, we're not going to go down that road again.
If you look at the TV telecast, every time he plays, they even show him if he's ten over on the 15th hole. He's the guy, the reason why we have so many tournaments to play and the prize money have gone up. I mean, we have discussed this before.
He is the face of golf and has been for the last ten, 15 years now, and he continues to be that face, just because he's our Roger Federer, he's our Wayne Gretzky and he's really changed the sport in the last 20 years, like nobody was capable of doing, which is the reason why people are still supporting, and I think amongst players, as well.
Tournaments don't really want to answer this, but I think all of us -- any tournament you play in, you get on to the driving range and Tiger is there. Even if you're not a Tiger fan, you know he's there and you're going to watch him because he's Tiger Woods, plain and simple.
Q. Am I wrong, or you played the last Belgian open?
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: No, I didn't play the last one. They had a last series of three, which were Belgacom Opens, and I didn't play the last one because that's the year I went to the PQ1 to qualify for the Tour, which I finished third and came back. I remember we drove, we took the boat because there was no tunnel back then. We took the boat straight to Knokke on the Saturday if I remember correctly. I think the last one, it's either Karlsson or Westwood that won.
But I remember when I was a 15-year-old kid going to a European Tour back then, going to the trucks and seeing the guys that I grew up playing with was something.
I think the way that these young guys have come on Tour and get on to the range and seeing guys that they have seen on TV is a little bit different than when I grew up. When I grew up, you only had golf on TV a couple of hours a week, so it was not as accessible as it was now.
You know, now, it's almost like you get on to a range and you've seen Jason Day on TV hundreds of times and you know the guy already, where when I was eight or nine years old and I saw Ballesteros or Langer or Sandy Lyle for the first time it was like seeing true gods. So I think that that has changed a lot.
But I remember that it was cold. I remember Nick Faldo eating soup on the putting game in Knokke, so I still have unbelievable memories about playing tournaments like that, or even seeing it when I was younger, eight, nine or ten years old.
Q. Do you feel the excitement before this tournament or are you maybe a little disappointed because there is no excitement in your people surrounding you about this tournament? What are your feelings?
THOMAS DETRY: I've heard a lot of excitement. I've played around in Belgium quite a bit. I feel like everybody is talking about it: When are you coming; will you come Saturday, the weekend. People are excited about it. I don't know about non-golfers but I know golfers are excited about it and excited to see some good golf, I think.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: I've only been in Belgium a couple of days but you see posters in golf clubs. I had a company day yesterday and everybody is quite keen. They know what's going on. They know the format is a bit different, and of course, then, you know, I had a company day yesterday so it's many people I know but they follow the other tournaments.
So there is some sort of different dynamic the past couple years just because of what I have done and what Thomas has done and now there is another young pretty good looking Belgian player.
So there is an attraction. People talk, and I mean, I'm not here that often anymore, but I'm sure that you guys would see this difference in the last couple years.
Q. What makes this tournament beside the format so special for you?
THOMAS PIETERS: Because it's here. It's my home. It's where I play every day when I'm home. You know all the faces in the golf club, and to have a European Tour event here, I have to pinch myself sometimes that it's actually -- like it just feels like it's a junior tournament.
Q. You're not the oldest anymore.
THOMAS PIETERS: No, no.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: You might not win as easily as in your junior tour.
THOMAS PIETERS: It's an unreal feeling.
Q. How is the course for you?
THOMAS PIETERS: I'm going to go out this afternoon. It looks amazing. I've heard good things. Like it's the little things we wanted to do right. For example, I walked into the caddie lounge yesterday and the caddie is giving thumbs-up for like the food is great in the caddie lounge. That's something, for example, we sat down a couple months ago, and they asked me, like what do you want a little extra in this tournament? I said, for example, good caddie food. They deserve all the good food, because you hear too many complaints all the time about caddies not getting good food. Just the small things.
It might not be the biggest prize fund, but I think players will remember this as a really good, fun experience and a good tournament.
Q. Playing in the same tournament as Thomas Pieters. In what way would you like to follow his steps? Can you elaborate on this?
THOMAS DETRY: Yeah, it's been two years already. It's my second year now and we've played a few events together. I mean, yeah, we have had pretty much the same path, not exactly the same, but I think we went to the same school together. We played a lot of amateur tournaments together and all these things, yeah, and now it's amazing what he's done after three years on Tour making The Ryder Cup, so it's very motivating to see him doing that. He's working hard for it, and yeah, it's pretty motivating to see him doing well.
Yeah, it's definitely a good thing.
Q. It was on The European Tour website that you had an advantage to play here. Do you agree with that? Because on the level that you are, you play a lot of different golf courses. Is it an advantage for you to play here, and your colleagues, do they agree with that?
THOMAS PIETERS: Yeah, for sure, I've played this course many, many times. But then you can argue, there's a bit more pressure, obviously, because you're playing in front of a home crowd, so maybe it evens out.
I look forward to this week and I don't want to look too far forward. I mean, U.S. Open, fine, but this is this week, so I'm not going to elaborate too much. I can't wait for Thursday to tee it up and to see all my friends.
Q. Who is going to win?
THOMAS PIETERS: How do we know? I don't know.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: Don't look at me (laughter).
THOMAS PIETERS: I know you don't know. Nobody knows.
Q. Would it be nice?
THOMAS PIETERS: Would it be nice? That's a rhetorical question I think.
Q. It's not a rhetorical question?
THOMAS PIETERS: Yes, it is.
Q. That there would be another Belgium --
THOMAS PIETERS: It would be nice.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: It wouldn't be nice. It would be amazing.
Q. I was wondering what you thought about the girls playing the GolfSixes, and what do you think about extending invites to some of them perhaps next year here?
THOMAS PIETERS: I watched when Eddie Pepperell and mat Wallace came on the first tee with those girls when they played against them. They saw Eddie's Tweet the day before and loved it. Yeah, I think it was good. I didn't watch a lot of that tournament, but I think it's good. Those girls, they can play some golf, and I don't know how they did, but I think Charley is Top-10 in the world.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS: The shot she hit on the first was amazing.
THOMAS PIETERS: That tap-in.
Q. Would you consider inviting any female golfers in the future?
THOMAS PIETERS: Of course. Why not? Yeah. It's a good idea, actually. Going to look into that.
Q. That one's for free.
THOMAS PIETERS: Yeah.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports