British Masters glory confirms Eddie Pepperell's return from the depths
By Ben Reynolds
Last Updated: 18/10/18 7:34am
Eddie Pepperell's victory at the Sky Sports British Masters has brought talk of a Ryder Cup appearance in 2020, while the Englishman can also look forward to a maiden appearance at the US Open next spring.
Yet as he stood with tournament host Justin Rose with the trophy in the gloom of Sunday evening, there remained very tangible evidence of the Englishman's recent woes.
The front of the 27-year-old's cap was conspicuously blank - he does not have a sponsor.
"All I can I say is that it's available," he said.
It seems unthinkable that a two-time winner on the European Tour who has earned more than £2m in 2018 and finished in the top 10 at The Open is without a sponsor, but it serves as a reminder of just how far Pepperell had fallen before his fortunes changed.
As recently as May 2017, he was outside the world top 500 after losing his card in 2016 in heartbreaking circumstances.
Having missed seven of his previous eight cuts, he entered the Portugal Masters in October 2016 right on the bubble for keeping his card.
A seven-under 64 on the first day was enough to put him one shot off Marc Warren's lead, but a 76 the next day, sealed with a disastrous double-bogey at the last after hitting out of bounds, meant he missed the cut and lost his card.
"I haven't cried many times in my career, but when I got back to my room, I broke down," he told Golf Digest. "It was a sickening moment for me, my family and anyone who really cares about me."
He has since earned a measure of redemption in Portugal, finishing third and second there in the two years since his return to the Tour, but before then he had to go through qualifying school, where he became afraid to use his driver and consistently took a three-wood off the tee to get him through.
"For a short moment, it did feel as though my world was crumbling down around me," Pepperell wrote on his blog.
But he recovered, worked his way back and then qualified for the US Open with two impressive rounds at the venue of his latest triumph - Walton Heath.
His first top-10 finish in more than 10 months followed at the Nordea Masters in Sweden in June 2017 and he followed that with a tie for 16th at Erin Hills to lift himself to 337th in the world.
He then took that rich vein of form into September and October last year, where top-10 finishes at the KLM Open, Portugal Masters, Alfred Dunhill Links, Italian Open and Turkish Airlines Open combined to propel him inside the world's top 150.
Which is where he hovered until February this year and the Qatar Masters, when after six years and 129 starts, he finally claimed his maiden win, holding off compatriot Oliver Fisher by a shot.
The win did not provide the immediate breakthrough for Pepperell though. Three missed cuts, a disqualification and one top-20 finish followed in his next six starts.
Quick explanation for my DQ today; I signed for a 3 on one hole where I made a 2 and I signed for a 4 on one hole where I made a 5. I signed for 71 which was what I shot. All in all this amounts to a DQ. Nothing serious. I didn’t smack a marshal with his sign like last time.— Eddie Pepperell (@PepperellEddie) June 22, 2018
But a second-place finish at the Scottish Open then preceded a tie for sixth at The Open and with that, his ascent into the top 100, from where the curve continues upwards.
Pepperell will never blast opponents away off the tee, but he is an intelligent player; creative and resourceful who thrives when conditions ask questions, just as they did at Walton Heath at the weekend.
A hat sponsor is surely not far away now.