Eddie Pepperell, the touring professional based at Frilford Heath Golf Club in Oxfordshire, survived a late scare from his friend Oliver Fisher and produced a final round performance of confidence and poise to claim his maiden European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
It all came down to the final hole between the two compatriots and playing partners, as Fisher had a birdie opportunity to force a play-off, but for the most part Pepperell had appeared to be cruising to a victory in the manner of an experienced champion.
While the challengers to the throne were toing and froing in front of him on the course – multiple tour winners Grégory Havret, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Pablo Larrázabal among those ratcheting up the pressure – the 27 year old appeared focused, serene and in control.
He opened with eight successive pars before back-to-back birdies at the ninth and tenth edged him three clear but Fisher, who had suffered a three over front nine and seemed out of the contest, made an almighty comeback.
When he birdied the 16th and 17th, it was a one-shot game and Fisher had a ten-footer for a birdie and extra holes at worst. It slipped by, however, and the 29 year old had to sign for a one under 71, while Pepperell knocked in a two-foot par putt for a two under 70, an 18 under total and a one-stroke triumph.
“It was a long day and a long week I guess – to be up there all week can be mentally pretty tiring but I felt like I dealt with it well this week. Even at the end of Thursday I had a feeling and I was already expecting to lead every day,” said Eddie Pepperell.
“I knew I was playing well, especially tee to green, so I expected a lot of myself this week and I guess to pull it off is amazing. Oli made a great run at the end and certainly put me under a lot of pressure but I put myself under a little bit myself too so I’m just happy and relieved.
“I just didn’t feel that comfortable with my swing and it wasn’t in quite as nice a spot as it had been so I had to play smarter on the front nine with some tricky pins. To birdie nine and ten – I had said to my caddie Mick (Doran) that I would step up it on this back nine and I just felt confident that I was going to find something with my swing or just start hitting slightly better shots.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t quite happen but mentally I was strong today and Mick was fantastic. I did the things I needed to do – I didn’t play fantastic but I won ugly and for the first win to be ugly is good. Hopefully I’ll have some prettier ones in future.
“When Oli birdied the 17th that was when it really caught up with me that I was only one ahead. I was in my own zone, I knew I had a couple of shots of a lead but Oli did great. It was a tough front nine for him and I had to stay right in my own way and out of the two guys’ way because they were struggling a bit and it’s sometimes easy to get dragged into that.
“I felt like I had to mentally focus and be strong and I did that. All credit to Oli, he’s a lovely lad and I have a lot of time for him and that putt on the last – I’m sure he’s gutted but it certainly made my family at home go pretty wild I suspect.”
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