Five years on the European Tour. 128 tournaments. 22 top ten finishes.
And after all that grind, when you win your first title, the first thing, Eddie Pepperell says, you feel is “relief”.
Second, you perhaps feel rich. Richer by USD291,000 to be exact.
Pepperell celebrated his first European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters yesterday.
The 27-year-old Pepperell carded a final round of 70 and held his nerve over the closing stages to fend off compatriot Oliver Fisher by a single stroke for the win at the Doha Gulf Club.
“Relief, I guess is the number one emotion, as is always the case with a win – although I haven’t had many,” Pepperell said.
The victory saw him rocket from 188th to 13th in the season-long rankings.
Pepperell and Fisher were tied for the lead going into the final round, with the former making a steady start and going one-under at the turn. Fisher could only card a three-over on the front nine, following a hat-trick of bogies, which left him four shots adrift halfway through the round.
But Fisher bounced back with five birdies on the back nine and, when he stood on the final tee, was only a stroke behind his compatriot.
At the closing 589-yard, par-five 18th, both reached the green in three shots, with Pepperell 25 feet from the pin, while Fisher was just over three yards away. After Pepperell had left his opening putt 18 inches to the right of the hole, Fisher’s birdie attempt agonisingly slipped wide and with that his chance to force a play-off.
This left Pepperell to confidently tap in for par and collect his maiden Tour success at the 129th attempt. His previous best finish had been a tied-second in Ireland in May 2015.
“What a day?! Oli made it really tough and I made it tough for myself at the end with the second shot on the 18th,” the Oxfordshire player said.
“But I felt good all day, I was in a great place mentally and kept telling myself I’m going to win this and Oli certainly made life more interesting.”
The victory was a reward for Pepperell’s mental fortitude and hard work that saw him fight back from losing his Tour card and returning to Q-School in 2016. “This will give me confidence,” he said.
Swede Marcus Kinhult finished at 16-under for the tournament after a 68. Spanish duo Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Pablo Larrazabal, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Renato Paratore were tied fourth at 15-under. Englishman Josh White of the MENA Golf Tour, who qualified through winning the Professional Division of the Qatar Open, shot a final round 75 for a four-round score of four-under par to finish in tied 61st position alongside two-time Commercial Bank Qatar Masters champion Paul Lawrie, former Ryder Cup player David Howell and six others.
For Fisher, it was his first top-three since the 2014 Africa Open but he will have to wait a little longer to add to his 2011 Czech Open title despite finishing his round with 32 blows on the back nine after a forgettable front nine of 39.
“It went all the way to the last hole which, after my front nine, was what I was hoping for,” he said.
“I hit a lot of good shots coming down the back nine and gave myself a lot of good chances, but there were just too many bogeys today – four in total – so you’re never going to win a tournament making that many mistakes on a Sunday. But at least I pressed him all the way,” the 29-year-old Londoner said.
Pepperell won the Allianz Open Cotes d’Armor Bretagne en route to graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2012 and then enjoyed three consistent seasons before losing his card.
His bounce-back season was a triumph, securing four top-fives and three top-tens in his last ten events in 2017 before a slow start to the current season saw him miss cuts in his first two outings before signs of improvement at last week’s NBO Oman Open.
“The last nine months have been great. The start of the season has been a little bit sloppy, haven’t really had my game in a good spot. I worked with somebody slightly different this week and it made a nice difference. I found it a little easier out there today to go and trust the feeling that I had,” Pepperell said.
“When you win, you know you can win. I’ve always felt and believed I will win out here but it hadn’t happened before today. You’ve always got to take that step and that’s uneasy but at some point in everyone’s career they’ve got to do something for the first time. Hopefully this is not my last.”
LEADING FINAL ROUND SCORES
270 — E Pepperell (ENG) 65-69-66-70
271 — O Fisher (ENG) 66-69-65-71
272 — M Kinhult (SWE) 68-69-67-68
273 — G Havret (Fra) 65-69-70-69, G Fernandez - Castano (ESP) 68 68 69 68, R Paratore (ITA) 71-66-70-66, P Larrazabal (ESP) 68-67-70-68
274 — G Coetzee (RSA) 69-66-71-68, S Heisele (GER) 67-68-71-68
275 — M Baldwin (ENG) 68-70-68-69, M Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 68-68-69-70, A Otaegui (ESP) 67-66-73-69
276 — M Foster (ENG) 71-68-68-69, C Wood (ENG) 68-69-68-71, S Han (USA) 69-71-69-67, D Horsey (ENG) 71-68-65-72, M Nixon (ENG) 69-68-69-70, A Pavan (ITA) 68-69-67-72
277 — A Bjork (SWE) 70-69-69-69, J Scrivener (AUS) 70-70-67-70, A Quiros (ESP) 66-70-70-71, R Wattel (FRA) 71-69-71-66, C Shinkwin (ENG) 68-69-70-70, A Rai (ENG) 65-73-69-70, P Waring (ENG) 68-70-70-69, M Wallace (ENG) 69-71-67-70, S Fernandez (ESP) 69-70-71-67
278 — W Ashun (CHN) 69-70-70-69, C Bezuidenhout (RSA) 68-72-71-67, M Siem (GER) 73-66-68-71, S Crocker (USA) 67-68-67-76, H Tanihara (JPN) 70-69-66-73, M Pavon (FRA) 68-69-71-70
279 — R Cho (KOR) 69-70-67-73, N Geyger (CHI) 71-69-69-70, L Gagli (ITA) 67-70-67-75, N Colsaerts (BEL) 71-69-69-70, A Sullivan (ENG) 69-70-73-67
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