There was a fair amount of contention over Darren Clarke’s wildcard picks for Europe’s Ryder Cup team, but the man whose inclusion caused the most debate could yet bring punters a healthy Hazeltine windfall.
For regular golf enthusiasts who don’t necessarily keep a beady eye on the European Tour’s myriad tournaments throughout the season, the name Thomas Pieters will certainly have seemed a rather left-field pick.
The 24-year-old Belgian has only played in two majors without prominence, both this season, placing 30th at The Open and 86th at the PGA Championship. He does have three European Tour wins to his name though.
The last of those arrived barely a month before the 2016 Ryder Cup tees off, at the Made In Denmark event, which was the culmination of an excellent run of form which proved too eye-catching for Clarke to ignore.
Having peaked at the exactly the same time last year too, when putting Czech Masters and KLM Open victories together in late August and mid September, the Belgian followed fourth spot at the Olympics with a runner-up finish at the KLM.
Pieters has now risen up to 15th in the Race to Dubai standings ahead of his Ryder Cup bow, and 12/5 says he can outscore veterans Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, both 6/4 chances, as Europe’s three wildcard picks when USA play hosts in a fortnight.
Although the duo have heaps of experience in the inter-continental team event, it’s quite difficult to argue with current form, while the underdog’s Olympics performance under a similar spotlight is particularly encouraging.
Kaymer and Westwood boast top 10s on their last outings (at the time of writing) though 2.5 individual points remains the zenith across the last three editions of the Ryder Cup. They average 1.8 and 2.1 points in that time respectively.
Justin Rose top scored with four at Gleneagles two years ago. Westwood’s Ryder Cup consistency and wealth of experience gleaned from 10 prior appearances marks the Englishman out as the conservative choice between the three.
However, Pieters whose present swinging prowess is reflected by his top-10 ranking in the European Tour’s stroke average charts, looks a worthy outsider.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.