Thomas Pieters’ victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday wasn’t just the biggest of his career – it was also the best performance I’ve seen from him.
Pieters was a picture of composure as he played beautifully all day, making 16 pars in a 72 to keep his nose in front of Rafa Cabrera Bello at Yas Links.
There was a brief moment, at the 12th hole, when the Belgian’s hopes of winning his sixth DP World Tour title hung in the balance a little.
Pieters had three-putted the previous hole for a bogey six after a difficult bunker shot, which in the past might have ignited some fury.
But he stayed calm, even after hitting his third at the par-four 12th six feet past the hole. And, knowing he needed a putt to stay at the top of the leaderboard, he made it.
It’s great for European golf to have a player as talented as Pieters, who also won in November at the Portugal Masters, back on top form.
I know Thomas quite well, having been a European vice-captain when he made a dazzling debut at the 2016 Ryder Cup.
After his win in Portugal I congratulated him by text for his fifth win on the tour. He replied that it wouldn’t be long until No6. He was right!
On Sunday I joked to him that the next one should be a major, but the truth is he is playing so well that he may win again before the Masters comes around in April.
Pieters, 29, who had won just one stroke play event in five years until two months ago, looks to be more mature now.
Fatherhood can do that. His first child was born during lockdown in 2020 and there is no greater feeling. It just settles you.
It makes you realise that the rest of your life is not that important, which takes the pressure off on the golf course. Pieters may be benefiting from that.
McIlroy shows signs of form in Abu Dhabi
An honourable mention must go to Cabrera Bello for a good finish that earned him a share of second place.
Defending champion Tyrrell Hatton had an extraordinary week of highs and lows and might have retained his crown but for Friday’s double bogey and Saturday’s quadruple at 18.
Ian Poulter, who finished alongside Hatton in a tie for sixth, also had a good week. Rory McIlroy would have joined them had he now dropped shots at his last two holes.
Still, McIlroy showed some promising signs as he heads to Dubai for this week’s Desert Classic, where he is a two-time winner.
Over in the United States, Hudson Swafford enjoyed a great win at the American Express in California. Swafford looks like a beautiful player and has a great swing. He’s the real deal.
Ireland’s Seamus Power has been making some waves on the PGA Tour and broken into the world’s top 50 this month, but couldn’t see through a strong start this week.
It was nice to see former Open champion Francesco Molinari showing signs of a return to form, too. The Italian, who looked unbeatable at times during his golden 2018, finished tied for sixth.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him @torrancesam