Eddie Pepperell: Q School, sprained ankles and farewell to the driver
If you have any sort of passing interest in golf and don’t read Eddie Pepperell’s blog then you are missing out. In a golfing world full of bluster, positivity and never-ending chat of just this and just that – ‘it’s just around the corner/just need the putts to drop/just need to catch a break/just throwing in a silly double’ – Pepperell lays it straight on the line through a mix of candour, wit and intelligence.
It’s a consistently brilliant read. This year Pepperell’s ascendancy has hit the buffers, all seemed fine when he had a chance to win in Thailand in July but then the wheels began bouncing around the Race to Dubai. He missed the next six cuts and came to the final event, the Portugal Masters, holding the 110th spot to keep his card. Day one was a dream, Pepperell shared the lead after a 64. Day two was a nightmare, he bogeyed three of the last five holes for a 76 to miss the cut by two.
Pepperell was heading to Q School, but first a very honest appraisal of his year on his blog.
Unfortunately 2016 has been the year I came to the realisation I don’t love this game the way I used to. It’s like being married to someone you have such a deep, inextricable connection to. It beats you up, yet you still come back for more. Don’t get me wrong I love the challenge of getting better, and I really enjoy being in the hunt on Sunday. That makes me feel alive. But golf has shown me it’s darker, more insidious side this year.
Thankfully the marriage is back on; Pepperell shot six rounds under par and finished joint 5th at PGA Catalunya.
Your blog made quite difficult reading less than two weeks ago. How hard was it to write and how do you go from that to what you have just done in Spain?
It wasn’t that hard to write, it only took me 10 minutes watching the Andrew Marr Show! That blog was four weeks’ worth of thinking what had just happened. I didn’t write it wanting to come across as being down or depressed, I have actually been much happier in the last two months with my game than the six months before it.
People don’t see the full picture, I should never have been in that position, my putting in Portugal was really bad on the second day. But the blog wasn’t as hard as you might have imagined and I wasn’t not as low as it might have appeared.
But you are very honest, particularly compared to most of your peers?
I am only in the position that I am is because of that. When I was 18 I made quite a few changes with my mentality and so, from that point on, I have always been addicted to truth and honesty. I always want to know the truth even if that is uncomfortable and I am not afraid to put that down in writing. I do feel a little exposed sometimes but ultimately people can connect to it and the struggles that we might have. They might see me as a talented golfer but I’m just a normal person like everyone else on Tour.
What was your mindset at the start of the week?
It’s still just a golf tournament albeit a long golf tournament. What I tried to do, especially the last two rounds, was realise that every round has its own rhythm and the better you can do that then the easier it is to get into your own feeling. If you are a bit anxious, then that will help.
We have infection! The rabbits here are both vicious and venomous! ??? pic.twitter.com/HEkFjY92i9
— Eddie Pepperell (@PepperellEddie) November 15, 2016
What happened to your foot?
My club was on the floor and I kicked it and it ricocheted and whacked my ankle, it was pretty bad actually and I was struggling to walk towards the end of the round.
That was on the second day on the 5th hole. I knew it wasn’t broken but it was quite uncomfortable and had swollen up. The Tour physios did a great job, strapping it up every day and I took plenty of paracetamol and Ibuprofen. It is amazing what adrenaline can do to take away pain and tiredness.
How much does what your playing partners are up to affect what you are doing?
At the end it all got a bit stressful and a bit nervy, we all hit a couple of loose shots and just wanted to get in. It was the longest week I have ever had, there were two practice rounds as well.
I played with Tom Lewis and Richard McEvoy in the last round and I played really nicely early on though I should have been way under. But Richard was struggling and was beginning to unravel a bit and he did amazingly to par the last to get his card.
When you are playing with someone and witnessing them unravel you then start thinking too much about their situation and then you have to detach yourself.
That said I love seeing people in really uncomfortable situations because I like being in uncomfortable situations myself. At the end of the day we’re only human and life wouldn’t be the same without those moments. I enjoy seeing other people have to go through the shit, just like I have to go through the shit, and it is just part of sport at a high level.
You avoided any double bogeys in 108 holes. From the scorecard it all looked very steady….
I maybe hit 10 drivers all week, if that, in six rounds. I hit one bad tee shot with the driver in the fourth round, got lucky and made bogey and I said to Jamie, my caddy, that we don’t need that club. There were a couple of par 5s where I might be hitting longer clubs in or not reach but so what, I was playing well enough to sacrifice that.
What were you driving with?
I have got a new TaylorMade 3-wood, I changed from the M1 to the M2. It is 15˚ but has a fast head, I might take half a degree off it but it carries 260-270 yards and has the ability to roll out so I won’t really be losing any distance.
I had so much confidence and I was standing on the tees with that extra 25 per cent confidence and that resulted in playing some of the best golf I’ve ever played.
I’ll look to pursue that going forward. I tried it at times last year but I wasn’t swinging it as well so I will be looking to go down the Stenson route. I consider my strength being iron play and the ability to score so the secret is to get the ball in play as often as I can.
What is your overall emotion now?
Relief but fifth place didn’t flatter me, I was furious with myself coming off the 18th after the fifth round. If I putt that bad for the next few months I will be whacking my ankles with my putter a lot more.
I wanted to par the last so badly so I could be under par for all six rounds and I was very proud of that, I’ve not had that kind of consistency all year and I’ll take a lot of confidence from that.
Where should you be finishing on the Race to Dubai?
I feel like I have the potential and we have seen what Tyrrell Hatton or Andy Sullivan or Chris Wood have achieved this year. I don’t believe that they have more golf shots than I have, if that makes sense, I believe that I can play as good as them but I’ve not found the ability to be as consistent, particularly off the tee.
Is losing your card a bit of a slow death in that you can see it coming? Things turned after Thailand in July and I then missed the next six cuts. I started working with a new coach in May-June and at first it was good, then I lost sight of a couple of very important things. The sequence of my swing went completely off, I was seeing good things on video which was giving me confidence but I wasn’t performing on the course. The signs were there last year, my best results came on links courses where I had the option to hit 1 or 2-irons off the tees and I tend to be good in the wind. On a course where you have to hit the ball well and be consistent I was nowhere near.
If I can keep doing what I’m doing I feel like I can now win or come close to winning any tournament, I have already got the experience of doing well and things can change quickly.
How hard is it to fill your time on what is a particularly long week?
There is a good hotel on site but it is the same thing, day in day out. You get back at 4pm and then I would watch Bloomberg and catch up on the markets which I’m interested in. Then you would go to dinner and you would try to spend as long as possible at dinner to limit your time in your room. Then you will go to bed at 9.30pm, likely sleep badly as you are laid down for too long or you’re not tired enough.
Did you vary your dining partners? No, it was the same all week – Laurie Canter, Tom Lewis and my manager. Tom actually declined our invitation on the final night as he said we were talking too much about golf and politics!
We all made it through, Tom had a birdie putt to get to -9, I had a tap-in par for -10 and Laurie was by the green and he said he had finished at -6 so it was great.
I was also chuffed for Matthew Nixon and Gary King, who I played junior golf with, and he shot 66 to finish on the number so I was really pleased for him and his mum and dad.
This time the last two years you have been in Dubai, how would you compare the two? It is so different to Dubai where there is the glamour and it is this huge celebration of success. They are absolute chalk and cheese. In a funny kind of way I enjoyed Q School more. If you don’t get it going in Dubai you are going to go through the motions and collect 30 grand which is lovely but it means nothing. I want the excitement, and pressure and stress because that is what golf and sport is about, and you’ve got to embrace that.
I am amazed how supportive people I don’t know even are on Twitter and also my fellow players.
What do you make of Twitter? My sense of humour is a bit dark for Twitter, I would love to be a bit darker. I have been on and off it a few times, I know what I don’t like but I must enjoy some part of it. I’m certainly not there to use it to sell myself or for marketing myself as a brand or a product, I’m just someone who might have a slightly different sense of humour to some other people and I try to get that across.
When are you next playing golf? Leopard Creek. I have about 10 days off at home and then I’m off to South Africa.