Thomas Pieters edged closer to securing a fifth consecutive appearance at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship after breaking into the top 50 of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with his first victory in three years at the Czech Masters.
The Belgian, who secured his maiden win at the same venue in 2015, led from start to finish on Sunday, with four birdies on the front nine keeping the chasing pack at arm’s length and a further gain at the 12th powering him over the line for a one-stroke triumph over Spaniard Adri Arnaus.
“It feels good to win again, I never doubted myself but it’s just been a long road of not feeling that great with the golf swing,” said Pieters, who finished on 19 under par to jump up to 42nd from 66th in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
“It’s difficult when everybody says you should be winning two or three times a year. It’s always nice to hear that– but it’s almost a negative sometimes because I always felt like I was underachieving. Hopefully now there’s many more days like this.”
Despite missing out on a maiden victory, Arnaus continued his superb form on his rookie year on the European Tour after posting his third runner-up finish in 2019. The 2018 Challenge Tour graduate moves up 16 places to 30th in the Race to Dubai Rankings, putting him in contention for a debut outing at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I never gave up, I tried to make some birdies coming in and see if he would make a mistake but he didn’t,” he said.
“Every week I come out here I learn and I’ll take a lot from this one I’m sure. I’m just enjoying the process at the moment and hopefully I can be up there again in the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile, last year’s winner Andrea Pavan and Sam Horsfield finished three shots behind to share third place. Italian Pavan climbs up to 27th from 36th while Englishman Horsfield jumps up to 123rd from 157th.
The top 50 players in the Race to Dubai Rankings will contest the season-ending US $8 million DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai from November 21-24 where US $3 million will be up for grabs for the winner, making it the richest prize in world tournament golf.
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Justin Thomas cemented his place as an automatic qualifier for the United States Presidents Cup team with victory in the BMW Championship in Medinah.
There were no late changes to the top eight for either the USA or the Internationals as Thomas secured the title by three shots ahead of compatriot Patrick Cantlay on the final day for qualification.
As a result, Thomas, Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Bryson DeChambeau will represent America at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December.
Tiger Woods, who finished 13th in the pecking order, has four picks to complete his team, but remains coy over whether or not he will select himself as just the second playing captain in the competition’s history.
He is in good company, however, with Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reid, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Speith having all finished outside the top eight.
The Internationals’ automatic selections are Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama,, who finished third at Medinah, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Abraham Ancer, Haotong Li, C.T. Pan and Cameron Smith with Jason Day likely to be among captain Ernie Els’ picks.
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Bryson DeChambeau has vowed to improve his pace of play after coming in for stinging criticism from fellow professionals over the weekend.
Eddie Pepperell and Ian Poulter were among the players to hit out at DeChambeau after video emerged of him taking two minutes and 20 seconds – the limit is 40 seconds – to hit an eight-foot putt during the second round of The Northern Trust at Liberty National.
Pepperell labelled DeChambeau a “single-minded twit” – although he has since apologised – while Poulter implied that the world number eight was one of the players who “continually disrespect their fellow pros and continue to break the rules without a conscience”.
DeChambeau initially issued a passionate defence of his actions and urged players to speak him to directly rather than “attack” him on social media, but softened his stance in an Instagram post on Monday.
“Slow play affects the quality of the game for both players and our fans and I’ve always had the utmost respect for my playing partners, including JT (Justin Thomas) and Tommy (Fleetwood),” wrote DeChambeau, who played with Thomas and Fleetwood in the first two rounds last week.
“I’m constantly trying to improve and I will do my very best to improve my pace. Golf is my passion and livelihood. It’s my responsibility to help improve the game to be more enjoyable for all.
“Pace of play has been an issue for golf at all levels for a long time and I’m committed to being a part of the solution, not the problem.
“I want to be a good representative of the game and the @PGATour and I looking forward to working with the TOUR and fellow players to find a solution to slow play.”
The furore over DeChambeau’s actions has at least prompted the PGA Tour to announce plans to review its current pace-of-play policy.
Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that slow players receive too many warnings before being penalised and, although PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has previously said he does not consider slow play to be a problem, the latest incident may finally lead to action.
“The Tour’s current pace-of-play policy only addresses players whose groups have fallen out of position,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “The Tour is now exploring whether to expand its policy to also address players whose groups are in position, but who take an excessive amount of time to hit a shot.”
Tyler Dennis, the Tour’s chief of operations, added: “We are really focused at the moment on leveraging our ShotLink technology to assist us with these factors.
“This year, we have rolled out version 2.0 of an application which allows the officials to monitor every group in real-time, from their positions out on the course, and respond more quickly when a group is getting behind.
“We know that the individual habits of players when they are preparing to hit a shot can quickly become a focal point in today’s world, and our players and fans are very passionate about this issue.
“We are currently in the process of reviewing this aspect of pace of play and asking ourselves, ‘Is there a better way to do it?’ We think technology definitely plays a key role in all of this and we are thinking about new and innovative ways to use it to address these situations.”
Under current guidelines, a player’s group must be deemed to be out of position before being timed.
At that point an individual would receive a warning the first time he exceeded the allotted time limit (50 seconds if first to play, 40 seconds thereafter) and would only be penalised for a second such “bad time” in the same round.
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