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I'm worried about future of European Tour amid 'terrifying' financial crisis, says Pepperell

 

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Major impact: Eddie Pepperell has concerns over the broader picture of the European Tour’s future

Major impact: Eddie Pepperell has concerns over the broader picture of the European Tour’s future

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Meet the press: Eddie Pepperell carries out a virtual press conference at the British Masters

Meet the press: Eddie Pepperell carries out a virtual press conference at the British Masters

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Major impact: Eddie Pepperell has concerns over the broader picture of the European Tour’s future

Eddie Pepperell admits he is concerned for the future of the European Tour given the "frankly terrifying" state of the global economy due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After staging two co-sanctioned events in Austria with the Challenge Tour over the past fortnight, the full European Tour returns to action for the first time since early March with this week's Betfred British Masters, an event Pepperell won in 2018 and was runner-up in last year.

The tournament has a prize fund of €1.25m (£1.1m) and is the first of six events on the newly-formed "UK swing". The remaining five have purses of €1m (£900k) each and had to be created and funded by the European Tour itself.

In stark contrast, the PGA Tour has been providing full prize funds since it returned last month and €9m (£8.1m) is up for grabs at next week's WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, but while Pepperell personally feels under no financial pressure to play, he is concerned about the broader picture.

"Everyone is in different positions in terms of career, finances and family," the 29-year-old said. "From my particular perspective there's no pressure on me, I don't feel I have to play golf for any reason at the moment, it's purely do I want to play and support the Tour, and of course I do.

"But at the same time, should I not enjoy the lifestyle very much then it won't be very long before I just decide to stay at home and enjoy a bit more freedom.

"I worry more about the cascading effects because if we're playing for 30% less then that has a knock-on effect; I don't pay my caddie as much, I don't pay my coach as much, I don't pay my physio as much so they're not as wealthy and that's what concerns me with not just golf obviously.

"It's the whole situation we see around the world, the deflationary aspect of it which is, frankly, a little terrifying.

"I am aware of that and though I'm not personally concerned for myself I'm aware that I'm just a tiny little pawn in all of this and the overall system I want to see it obviously maintain a little bit of what it had."

Asked if he feared for the future of the European Tour, Pepperell added: "I suppose so, but ultimately there's probably a dozen companies on the planet that could have survived this crisis without massive intervention and they are the Apples and Amazons of the world.

"I don't think the fact that the Tour could struggle is necessarily a sign it wasn't in a decent enough position heading into this crisis, this is just such a huge crisis.

"I don't know the ins and outs of it all, Keith (Pelley, European Tour chief executive) does I suppose and he's going to earn his crust at this period in his career."

Pepperell's presence at Close House ensures he cannot contest the upcoming US PGA Championship in San Francisco due to the 14-day quarantine rules currently in place, rules which will also prevent him competing in September's US Open.

The World No.82 admits that he does not know what to expect from his first competitive round since being disqualified from the Qatar Masters for signing for an incorrect score, but returns to action having lost a total of 10cm from his waistline thanks to a strict diet.

"I started it the week before Qatar so it's not the best diet for mathematics but it's good for the waistline," Pepperell joked.

"I had some issues with my health last year, I saw some photos of myself, and the way I felt for a 28, 29-year-old just wasn't right, so for four months all I ate was just steak, liver and bone broth.

"I must say my body felt amazing for it and my girlfriend, who's a nutritionist and was a vegan, and I did it together and she's still really strict on it."

Belfast Telegraph