Golf: Sole Belgian at Dell Matchplay Pieters stunned by attacks on homeland

Belgian golfer Thomas Pieters has expressed his shock at the bloody bombings on his homeland on March 22, 2016.
Belgian golfer Thomas Pieters has expressed his shock at the bloody bombings on his homeland on March 22, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Belgian golfer Thomas Pieters expressed shock at the bloody bombings on his homeland on Tuesday as he prepared for the World Golf Championships Dell Matchplay in Texas, vowing not to let the attacks affect his lifestyle.

Pieters, ranked 56th in the world, is the lone Belgian in the 64-strong field for the US$9.5 million (S$13.3 million) tournament at Austin Country Club, which tees off on Wednesday with the round-robin phase.

The 24-year-old awoke to headlines detailing the carnage in Brussels, where bombings at an airport and metro station left around 35 people dead and injured dozens more.

"It was just one of the worst days to wake up," a shocked Pieters said.

"Even when it happened in Paris, it's close, but it's not right near your people. And then now it happens to somewhere I go almost every time I fly out.

"It's shocking to see the images and videos. It's a sad day."

Pieters agreed that the horror of the attacks put his life as a professional sportsman into perspective.

"I'm not going to moan this week, that's for sure. It's just tough to understand - I just don't get it. So many innocent people," he said.

Pieters said he was still waiting to confirm the whereabouts of a friend who had been travelling on the metro at the time of the attacks.

"He hasn't been in contact, so it's still a nervous time," the golfer said.

"But we've heard that there's still a lot of people just stuck in the metro, because there was only one exit to get out. Hopefully, he just comes out there."

Pieters admitted that deadly attacks targeting civilians in Europe in recent months, such as last November's strikes on Paris claimed by the Islamic State terrorist group, had preyed on his mind occasionally.

"I'm not scared to fly, but it does cross your mind sometimes," he said.

"But I think you can't live with fear. So I'm not going to change the way I fly or anywhere I go. If you're at the bad place at the bad time, then those guys win. But I don't think you should change the way you travel."

Pieters is grouped with in-form Australian veteran Adam Scott, Bill Haas of the United States and England's Chris Wood in his round-robin group.

World No. 1 Jordan Spieth meanwhile said he had no immediate plans to change his calendar in the wake of the attacks in Belgium but admitted the bombings could conceivably give him pause for thought.

Asked whether they could affect his travel plans, Spieth replied: "I don't have many plans, at least in the upcoming six months, other than The Open Championship and hopefully the Olympics. I'm not sure after that."

The 22-year-old Texan acknowledged however that the attacks had left him feeling uneasy.

"I woke up, and it was sickening that that kind of stuff happens," he said.

"I don't know if that changes my strategy on things. It's a bit early in the season for me to tell, because that's normally what we look at later in the year. But it makes you feel a bit uneasy, doesn't it?

"It may, in fact, kind of call you off or at least hesitate a bit more on decisions like that."