By Phil Casey
Eddie Pepperell expressed his intention to “dominate” the British Masters after Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood suffered a nightmare day on the greens at Walton Heath.
Fleetwood and Pepperell were part of a four-way tie for the lead after opening rounds of 67, but while the former slumped to a birdie-free 77 to fall eight shots off the pace, Pepperell’s 69 gave him a halfway total of eight under and a three-shot lead over compatriot Matt Wallace.
France’s Julien Guerrier was also five under with three holes remaining when play was suspended due to darkness.
“I’m really excited, because I do think I can really improve my long game over the weekend and, if I can do that, then I want to take the mindset of dominating the event, because why shouldn’t I?” Pepperell said after a round containing five birdies and two bogeys.
“I’ve got to be aggressive, keep trying to play the shots and I don’t think there is anything to be afraid of for sure.”
Pepperell won his first European Tour title in Qatar earlier this season and has also recorded two runners-up finishes and tied for sixth in the Open at Carnoustie.
“I think I’ve made quite a big stride mentally the last 18 months. I remember at the Scottish Open feeling very comfortable on the Sunday. I thought I was going to win all the way and I wouldn’t have felt that before,” said Pepperell, who shot a closing 64 at Gullane, but was denied by a stunning 60 from Brandon Stone.
However, such form has taken the 27-year-old from Oxford to 50th in the world rankings. He could move inside the top 35 with a victory tomorrow, but Pepperell insists he will not be treading the path to the PGA Tour which such an elevated status makes possible.
“I’m not interested in playing over there in a full-time capacity for certain,” he added. “I’m really happy where I’m at. I get to see America five, six times a year and I think that’s perfect and that’s meant as a compliment as much as anything else, because I want to enjoy it for what it is.”
A 78 in the third round of the US Open is the only time Fleetwood has posted a higher score this season and he will be hoping he bounces back in the same manner, a closing 63 at Shinnecock Hills equalling the championship record and seeing him finish just a shot behind winner Brooks Koepka.
“I just had a nightmare on the greens really,” Fleetwood said.
Tournament host Justin Rose safely made the halfway cut after a 72 left him on two over par, while Paul Dunne is best of the Irish on one under, with Shane Lowry two over and Pádraig Harrington three over.
- Strong wind forced the abandonment of the second round of the 108th Irish PGA Championship at Galway Bay Golf Resort yesterday after about two hours of play. Competitors will return today at 9am to complete the second round, when a cut to the top 50 and ties will be made. The final round is due to begin at 12.30pm.