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Pepperell believes he has the game to win an Open title

Pepperell was runner-up in last year’s Scottish Open at Gullane.

Eddie Pepperell believes he has the game to win an Open title (Donall Farmer/PA)
Eddie Pepperell believes he has the game to win an Open title (Donall Farmer/PA)

With his irreverent sense of humour and a fondness for self deprecation, it is not always easy to know when to take Eddie Pepperell seriously.

Take for instance his view of the reaction which greeted his famous remark that he had played the final round of last year’s Open Championship while “a little hungover”.

“It’s 2018 and Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner are famous so it doesn’t really surprise me at all,” Pepperell said during the US PGA Championship the following month.

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England’s Eddie Pepperell walks over the bridge onto the 18th during day four of The Open Championship 2018 at Carnoustie (Richard Sellers/PA)

“But it’s funny that people think I’m now some sort of party animal because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m just going to try to keep perpetuating that myth on Twitter, give all the followers the odd bit of bait and let them go with it.”

Given the chance to recall that day at Carnoustie, when a closing 67 – the best of the day – vaulted him into a tie for sixth, Pepperell again could not resist making fun of the situation.

“I don’t drink any more, it’s the drugs now,” Pepperell told PA during the recent Irish Open, where he finished joint fourth. “I have quietened down, although I hear the IMG (his management company) house have got some lovely red (wine) in just for me.”

But despite being happy to play down his ability and make light of his occasional failures, on one topic the two-time European Tour winner is deadly serious.

“I genuinely think I can win the Open,” Pepperell said at Lahinch. “I feel comfortable on links courses, certainly more comfortable than I felt at Bethpage (venue for the US PGA).

“If I’m playing well and going in there with some confidence I certainly feel like I could contend to win it.”

Pepperell certainly has a better links pedigree than some might think, the 28-year-old losing out in a play-off for the Irish Open at Royal County Down in 2015 before winning his first European Tour title in the 2018 Qatar Masters.

The windswept course in Doha favours strong links players and has been won by the likes of Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Paul Lawrie, Scott and Lawrie doing so twice.

Pepperell was also runner-up in last year’s Scottish Open at Gullane – only Brandon Stone’s closing 60 denying him the title – the week before he hit the headlines at Carnoustie.

Despite not playing a practice round, Pepperell was on the fringes of contention at halfway following rounds of 71 and 70, but was dispirited by a third round of 71 which left him eight shots off the pace.

“I was so frustrated with Saturday that I thought Sunday was… I wouldn’t say a write-off, but I didn’t feel as though I was in the tournament,” Pepperell recalled.

“I just had some wine with my coach. We drowned our sorrows for about half an hour. It was enjoyable. I didn’t really think I had that much to drink. I’m just a lightweight!”

Even with the famous hangover Pepperell made an excellent start to the final round with birdies on the third, fifth and sixth and bounced back from a bogey on the eighth to pick up further shots on the 14th and 17th.

Four off the lead when he signed his card, Pepperell found himself just one adrift as the leaders struggled around the turn, only for Francesco Molinari to birdie the 14th and 18th to become the first Italian major champion.

Victory in the British Masters later in the season proved Pepperell’s performance had been no fluke, as did a tie for third in the Players Championship at Sawgrass in March.

I genuinely think I can win the Open Eddie Pepperell

Pepperell was also runner-up in defence of his British Masters title in May, but was then sidelined by a back injury and forced to miss the US Open at Pebble Beach.

Although in typical fashion he did not view missing a major championship at an iconic venue in the expected manner.

“I probably won’t get too many six-week breaks for the rest of my career, so for me to have built that in missing only one tournament I had planned to play, it really didn’t feel like a big sacrifice in taking that time off,” he added.

“To have four complete weeks of rest, which I haven’t done for a decade, did my body quite a lot of good, got rid of all the inflammation in my wrists and my back.

“I thought about playing Germany but it clashed with my girlfriend’s birthday and I blackmailed her. I said I’d be home for your birthday if we can get a second dog, she caved in and we got the second dog.”

PA

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