Thomas Pieters has spoken of the double-edged sword that comes with being Belgium’s No.1 golfer.
While the 25-year-old has lofty major and Olympic gold medal winning aspirations, he is not keen for the fame that comes with it and revealed his profile back in Belgium has risen significantly since the Ryder Cup.
“Not yet,” Pieters, a Rolex ambassador, told bunkered.co.uk when asked if he was now one of the nation’s biggest sports stars. “It’s getting bigger [his profile] and that’s not better for me because I don’t like it.
“The Ryder Cup helped massively with that – not in my favour – but it just comes with it, I guess.”
While Pieters is happy to shy away from the spotlight, he’s delighted to have helped trigger a golf boom in the country in terms of both participation and media coverage.
“The sport itself is growing massively,” he continued. “A lot of people are taking it up and they’re building golf courses now which is great. There are so many new projects and driving ranges opening up so nothing but good stuff.
“Golf is still pretty far down the list [in comparison to other sports]. It gets in the news every once in a while so it’s getting better. I think when it first got into the news was when Nico [Colsaerts] played in the Ryder Cup. But when he won in China, it didn’t even make the newspaper.
“We also get some respect from other athletes now which is fun because a lot of soccer and tennis players play golf. They respect us and now the media kind of sees that as well which is nice.”
Pieters made his Open debut last year with a T30 finish at Royal Troon and, after playing nine holes with Alexander Levy on Tuesday morning, believe two things will are vital at Royal Birkdale this week.
“Hitting fairways and patience are key,” he added. “The course was really tough. It already looks like it’s going to burn out. It’s going to be really firm. Maybe tomorrow if we get some rain it’ll soften. Even hitting wedges into the green, they don’t spin too much and it’s only Tuesday. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like on Sunday. It’s going to be US Open style greens.
“I need to try and not get too frustrated with myself because I tend to do that. Maintaining my temperament is going to be massive as I know I have a bit of a temper. That means I care though. Even if things are going aren’t going right, I’ve just got to accept it and move on.”
This year's Open Championship at Royal Birkdale marks the 50th anniversary of Rolex and Golf.