After a sparkling seven-under 65 at Carnoustie in the opening round on Thursday, the Belgian then slumped to an 11–over 83 at Kingsbarns in Friday’s horrific weather before bouncing back with an eight-under 64 in his third round at St Andrews.
Not since Colin Montgomerie opened with a 74 in the 2002 Open at Muirfield, then had a 64 and then an 84 in the cold, wet and rain of a stormy Saturday afternoon has someone had such fluctuating fortunes over three days on Scottish soil.
“I’d like to know what the highest score is to ever make a cut still,” said Pieters, smiling, after comfortably progressing to Sunday’s final circuit on the Old Course on four-under.
“I didn’t think yesterday was golf. It had nothing to do with golf. But I am obviously playing good as I came back and shot a 64 and I am very happy with that.”
Pieters, who landed a sixth DP World Tour title with his win in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January, reckoned the conditions on Friday had been the toughest he’d ever encountered.
Offering an example of that, he said he’d hit a driver, 3-wood and 5-iron at the par-5 12th, where it would normally be just a driver and 5-iron. “So just an additional 3-wood,” he pointed out, adding that he’d been unable to clear the ditch at the front of the 18th with a driver and 3-wood.
But, in holding up his hands, the former Ryder Cup player also admitted that he’d contributed to him signing for one of the highest scores in the second circuit.
“Yesterday, and I’ve done this once every five years now, I threw in the towel after 11 or 12 holes,” declared the 30-year-old. “Everything was wet. I couldn’t swing, couldn’t feel my hands.
“It’s just a lesson for myself. I shouldn’t have (thrown in the towel). But, at that point, everything was wet. There were literally bubbles coming out of my shoes.
“It just had nothing to do with golf, in my opinion. I don’t think we should have been playing, but obviously it’s not my decision.
“I get that they wanted to get four rounds in. Leave alone my score, I didn’t care about that. But I feel bad or the guys that are out there playing for their cards. That was the only thing I was thinking about - I thought that was complete BS!
“There are guys who’ve had a horrific day and are going to miss out on a nice cheque and move up the rankings.”
The world No 31 said he’d “laughed” about his own score with this week’s housemate, compatriot Nicolas Colsaerts, on Friday night and insisted that he hadn’t drowned his sorrows with any alcohol.
Would a younger Pieters have reacted differently? “He would probably have been even more mad,” he admitted, “but he wouldn’t have shot 64 today, that’s for sure.”