Pep­perell in com­fort zone as he closes in on the big prize

Con­fi­dent English­man holds three-shot lead Rose pleads with Tour to en­sure event sur­vives

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport - By James Cor­ri­gan GOLF COR­RE­SPON­DENT

On the day that Justin Rose pleaded with the Eu­ro­pean Tour to put “qual­ity be­fore quan­tity” and so se­cure the fu­ture of his­toric tour­na­ments such as the Bri­tish Masters, Ed­die Pep­perell put him­self in po­si­tion to join some fa­mous names on the tro­phy.

With a con­trolled 71, the 27-year-old from Ox­ford­shire moved to nine un­der par and main­tained his three-shot lead at Walton Heath. Pep­perell has a tantalising op­por­tu­nity to em­u­late the likes of Sir Nick Faldo, Lee Trevino, Sev­e­ri­ano Balles­teros and Greg Nor­man.

This would be Pep­perell’s sec­ond ti­tle of the sea­son and as well as net­ting him a cheque for £500,000 it would hur­tle him into the world’s top 35 and all but guar­an­tee him a berth in next year’s Masters.

The man­ner in which he kept the field at bay yes­ter­day sug­gested he has what it takes to be a front-run­ner. He had an ea­gle three at the 11th to go with 14 pars, a birdie and two bo­geys.

“I re­mem­ber feel­ing re­ally com­fort­able with the lead in Qatar [where he won in Fe­bru­ary], and I felt com­fort­able out there to­day,” he said. “I didn’t see any shots that fright­ened me.

“It’s about time I kicked on and won an­other event. It would have been nice to have holed a few putts on the back nine and give my­self more of a lead, but I’m con­fi­dent I can shoot three or four un­der and make every­one else’s life more dif­fi­cult.”

It will be tricky enough any­way on the Sur­rey heath­land course. The fore­cast is for a sharp drop in tem­per­a­ture to­gether with wind and rain.

The near­est pur­suers on six un­der are fel­low English­man Jor­dan Smith, Swede Alexan­der Bjork, France’s Julien Guer­rier and Amer­i­can Ju­lian Suri. Matt Wal­lace is on four un­der, Matt Fitz­patrick three un­der and Tommy Fleet­wood two un­der. This English trio will feel they are still in the hunt.

Rose, who is the tour­na­ment host, might also give him­self a chance. Af­ter a 69, he is on one un­der and even if Pep­perell makes his task im­pos­si­ble, there is still the op­por­tu­nity to re­claim the world No1 tag. Rose needs to fin­ish in a two-way tie for sec­ond or bet­ter.

“That hasn’t ac­tu­ally been on my mind,” Rose said. “I’ve just got to fo­cus on play­ing well. I got there with it be­ing a by-prod­uct of good play, and I’m go­ing to have to get back there the same way. You can’t force it.”

Rose seemed more con­cerned with the fu­ture of the Bri­tish Masters – an event he won in 2002 at Woburn and which was the only pro­fes­sional vic­tory his fa­ther, Ken, wit­nessed be­fore dy­ing from leukaemia.

The four-year deal with Sky Sports will ex­pire to­day, and without an­other ti­tle spon­sor con­firmed, it has been an open se­cret that this event will not be on next year’s sched­ule. How­ever, the Tour ex­pects it to reap­pear in 2020.

“It would be a shame if it does dis­ap­pear,” Rose said. “It’s one that’s close to my heart ob­vi­ously, hav­ing won it in 2002 with Dad around.

“Dare I say there are so many events on the Eu­ro­pean Tour that maybe shouldn’t be there. These are the ones that should be. There’s an ar­gu­ment there’s too many tour­na­ments, and it’s a shame that these ones with his­tory and ones that get sup­port [are al­lowed to dis­ap­pear].

“The fans re­ally do come out in force in the UK and sup­port these events, and these are the types of at­mos­pheres that the play­ers re­ally en­joy play­ing in front of. I’d urge any­one in the pow­ers that be to make it hap­pen. I don’t know if we should be fo­cus­ing on slightly con­dens­ing things – qual­ity over quan­tity for sure.”

What would surely help to at­tract spon­sors is the top English play­ers turn­ing up ev­ery year. Rose has not played since the Bri­tish Masters was res­ur­rected af­ter a six-year ab­sence in 2015, while Ian Poul­ter and Paul Casey are ab­sent this week.

Front-run­ner: Ed­die Pep­perell on his way to a third round of 71 at Walton Heath yes­ter­day, which moved him three clear of the chas­ing pack

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.