After a subdued defence of his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title last week, Thomas Pieters has a point to prove.

Actually quite a few points, as it is a Ryder Cup year and he is determined to make Luke Donald’s team when Europe take on the United States in Rome in September.

As the greatest players in Europe vie for those vital points in the UAE this week at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, the Belgian is ticking along quite nicely once again.

A 67 gave him a share of the lead on 10-under alongside Michal Thorbjornsen and Richard Bland, after a game of two halves on Saturday during a belated second round.

“I made the front nine look a bit scruffy,” he said after going out in 37, with three bogeys and a solitary birdie, but it soon picked up with a seven-birdie back nine for 30. “I was not in a good head space. And then I shoot that great back nine… I don’t know how, but my putting seemed to work, and you know, I’ve still got some tough to do on the range because my driving is pretty poor.

“My putting has kind of bailed me out after those bad drives. I can definitely see them rolling in from 15 feet which is a nice feeling. But I’ve got to get a bit more stress free off the tee.”

With 36 more holes still to be played as we  reach Sunday at Emirates Golf Club, Pieters is dialling in.

“Yeah, there’s no stress levels,” he said. “I  was just really angry after that poor first nine. It wasn’t really stress. I was just trying to get back into my round. But it’s nice to see your name up at the top.

“So now I go out, make more birdies. That makes me happy. Sometimes that works.”

His fellow leader is at the other end of the career spectrum, but Richard Bland is no fool around this course, having narrowly missed out on the crown to Viktor Hovland in a playoff 12 months ago.

Two solid five-under 67s have him in contention again, despite being an elder statesman at the age of 49 and old enough to be the dad of some of the players out here.

“The ball wasn’t going too far this morning,” Bland said of the change in the weather, which was still chilly after the rain, and also his creaking bones. “The ball was travelling a little further later, so I got caught out a couple of times. I hit like what I thought was a good shot and it came up with a 20-yard difference.

“But it was nice to play sun on your back at last, something we’re used to in Dubai. I came off a top-10 in Abu Dhabi last week, my first tournament after two months off, so it felt good that I didn’t have to really work on too much and it just about just kind of sharpening my game, and getting match fit as I sort of call it at my age.”