Thomas Pieters let the club drop in his hands as his ball pierced the coolish afternoon air at Metropolitan and tracked the pin at the 18th hole, a big crowd hovering around the putting surface. A look of calm satisfaction came over his face, the look of a winner.
Two shots clear of Australia and Mexico and within a breath of holding the World Cup of Golf, Belgium just needed to avoid any disasters at the 18th. Pieters was not about to let that it slip, nor his teammate Thomas Detry, who had moments earlier nailed his drive down the fairway. "I told him on 18 when he hit that drive, 'that's the drive of someone that's going to win next year, for sure'," Pieters said.
World No. 70 Pieters was magnificent all week, and his short iron shot stopped near the shadow of the flagstick. Detry tapped the putt in, and Belgium had its first-ever World Cup of Golf, a nation of just 11 million people and 60,000 golfers against Australia's one million-plus.
It was a watershed not only for the younger Detry (25) but also for the more-accomplished Pieters, 26, who was looked upon as one of the best young players in the world when he finished fourth in the US Masters in 2017, but who has been in a lull. They are close friends, have known each other since before they were 10, and now they have one of their nation's biggest achievements in the game.
Belgium's only previous success at World Cup golf level was through Flory van Donck's win in the individual section at the 1960 tournament. As a nation with little golf culture, it is quite some achievement to win the World Cup for the first time.
They shot 68 for the day and 23-under for the week, remarkable scoring. While the crowds are unlikely to be dancing in the streets of Brussels, Pieters and Detry hope that there will be a level of excitement at home, and inspiration taken from their performance.
"Golf is very different than Australia or USA,'' said Pieters.
And Detry: "It's going to be a bit loud, but definitely not as loud as a soccer World Cup.
They were challenged all day by Australia, the home country pairing of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith dazzling to a 65 which is an exceptional score in foursomes play, Leishman with his lasered iron shots and Smith with his putter. They had seven birdies and not a single bogey, and they were within two shots of the Belgians when Detry failed to make a par-saver on the 17th green.
But the Belgians closed it out nervelessly, and Mexico's team of Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz tied the Australians in second place at 20-under. Defending champions Denmark matched Australia's 65 to leap into fourth with Canada.
The Belgians eagled the fourth when Detry rolled in a seven-metre bomb, and each time they were threatened they found a way. Such as Pieters' dialled-in wedge to close range at the par-four 16th, and his shot at the last. Pieters' only moment of madness came at the ninth, where he missed an eagle chance and almost walked up and tapped the next putt in. Under foursomes play, it was Detry's turn, a fact quickly pointed out to him.
"Even the guy from Mexico, (Abraham) Ancer was like: 'Ohhhh, buddy, it's not your turn'! said Pieters, who was the individual star of the competition.
"It feels very good," he said. "It's not something you put on your list when you're a golfer, but you know, I felt it this morning and I felt it while we were playing. It's just excitement and a bit nervous. I told my Mum and Dad its' been a long time since I won, and this feels as good as an individual title."
The right team won, no doubt. "I think Belgium was clearly the best team all week," said Leishman. "We did what we had to do today to put the pressure on, and they were just too good. When you get beat by someone who's playing that well, there's not much you can do."
-23 Belgium 68 (T Pieters, T Detry)
-20 Australia 65 (M Leishman, C Smith)
-20 Mexico 66 (A Ancer, )
-17 Denmark 65 (S Kjeldsen, T Olesen)
-17 Canada 66 (A Hadwin, N Taylor)
Martin Blake is a Sports production journalist and writer for The Age.