Thomas Pieters, one of Russell Knox’s rivals for a Ryder Cup wild card, produced an eye-catching performance this morning in front of European captain Darren Clarke.
The 24-year-old Belgian opened with a nine-under-par 62 in the Made in Denmark to set the clubhouse lead in the final counting event for next month’s match at Hazeltine along with Swede Joakim Lagergren.
Pieters cannot jump above 10th-placed Knox on the world points list but he followed a fourth-place finish in the Olympics in Rio by claiming second spot in last week’s Czech Masters.
He’s one of the players in the mix for the three wild cards set to be announced by Clarke at Wentworth next Tuesday and certainly rose to the occasion after being paired with Clarke in today’s opening round at Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort in Farsø.
Starting at the 10th, Pieters opened with two birdies as he stormed to the turn in 30, which included a bogey at the 124-yard 16th.
He then picked up another four shots on his inward journey, getting up and down from just off the green to save par at the ninth and join Lagergren in the lead after he’d posted a flawless opening effort.
The sparkling efforts earned the pair a one-shot advantage over Welshman Bradley Dredge while Richie Ramsay fared best among the Scots to have morning starts with a 67 that included a double-bogey 7 at the 11th.
Swede Robert Karlsson made a hole-in-one at the signature 16th hole, sinking a pitching wedge for the 33rd ace of the European Tour season.
Paul Lawrie, one of Clarke’s vice captains, is out with two other wild-card contenders, Dane Soren Kjeldsen and Irishman Shane Lowry, in the afternoon.
Clarke will also be keeping a close eye on the Barclays Championship in New York, where Knox, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald will be aiming to catch the captain’s eye this week even though it doesn’t officially count in Europe’s qualification campaign.