BELGIAN stars Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Pieters are looking forward to rounding off a successful year in style when they tee it up in the idyllic surroundings of Heritage Golf Club for this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
The two former Ryder Cup players returned to winning ways during the 2019 season – and now have the opportunity to claim another title before the year is out in the second event of the 2020 Race to Dubai.
The chance to work their way into European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington’s team for the next edition of the biennial contest in September is in the back of both of their minds.
But Colsaerts is first and foremost relishing the opportunity to play with freedom in the coming months, after erasing doubts about securing his 2020 card by lifting his third European Tour trophy at the Amundi Open de France, at Le Paris National, in October.
Colsaerts, who has had a home at Ernie Els’ Anihita Golf Club on the east coast of the island in the Indian Ocean for some time, said after the French win secured his status: “I came from not knowing if I had to go to Q-School to now having two years’ exempt.
“I played a lot of events last year. We have a young boy at home and you sometimes wish you could spend more time at home, which will definitely be the case next year, bit of a lighter schedule,” added Colsearts who became a father for the first time in 2019.
“Being able to play these events with a different mindset is something that I look forward to.
“You always have pretty much the same goals, you want to add as many lines as possible to your CV. We’re into a Ryder Cup year, and I want to keep playing big events.
“I haven’t played in the Majors for a couple of years now, so it would be good to have a chance again.
“The mindset will be totally different. I really look forward to 2020 and being able to tee it up a bit more freely and try to make the most out of these weeks.
“I’m fortunate enough to have been coming to Mauritius for 20 years. It’s always been a very popular destination for golfers from Europe in winter.
“The list of qualities that this place has is endless – the hospitality, the scenery, the food, the weather and now golf tournaments as well.”
While Colsaerts – who was one of the heroes in the Ryder Cup win at Medinah in 2012 – has been a regular visitor to Mauritius for two decades, this week is an all-new experience for his compatriot Pieters, who is soaking up the island life for the first time.
After claiming the D+D Real Czech Masters title in August, the 2016 Ryder Cup star enjoyed a strong end to the season with a tied sixth place finish at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Pieters is looking forward to carrying that form in to the new season at the fifth edition of the unique island event, tri-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour.
“It was lovely to finish off with a good result in Dubai,” said Pieters. “I played pretty well and felt like my game was turning.
“It’s almost a shame that the season had to end for me in Dubai. Happy to be playing here – it’s the first time I have played before Abu Dhabi. It’s almost like getting a bit of a head start. Looking forward to it.
“Ryder Cup is going to be on my mind and on my list, but there is so much golf to be played before then. Any points will help.
“This week at some point it will pop into my mind. If you’re having a bad stretch during a round you just remind yourself that every point counts and every shot counts. That’s the mindset you need to have.
“I’m absolutely loving it here. I’ve never been on really white beaches before, the water is so clear, beautiful scenery.
“I went swimming with dolphins on Sunday, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
“You can go snorkelling on the beach and then it’s a five-minute stroll to the driving range. You’ve got everything you need here.”
Bezuidenhout and Harding lead the African entries with fellow winners Law and McEvoy
ALSO in the field for this this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open are South African winners Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Justin Hardin, who both won on the 2019 season.
The pair are joined by Essex’s Richard McEvoy, who claimed victory in the 2018 Porsche European Open, and Scotland’s David Law, who won the ISPS Handa Vic Open, in Australia, in February.
Meanwhile Lancashire’s Lee Slattery has been given a sponsor’s invite after the Formby Hall pro lost his Tour card and was unable to finish in the top 25 at last month European Tour Qualfying School, in Spain.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie the 1999 Open Champion at Carnoustie, who like Law hails from Aberdeen, is also one of the 10 players to receive a sponsor’s inviate along with Spaniard Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño.
The seven-time European Tour winner who lost his card having moved to Florida, failed to keep his PGA Tour card in 2015 after two years playing in the States.
He played on the Web.com Tour and returned to the top level in 2017 – only to fail to make the top 125 on the FedEx Cup money list by just one spot, forcing him to return to Europe for the past two years.
A 104th place finish on the Race to Dubai kept a card for 2019, but he was in 127th place last month missing out on a place in the top 115 that would hav secured his status for 2020 by 67.4 points.
•For tee times at this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open click here.