The conditions were ugly on Sunday at the Sky Sports British Masters—a cold rain making umbrellas and stocking caps essential equipment. And the play wasn’t much better. After displaying some captivating golf over the first three days at Walton Heath Golf Club, Eddie Pepperell struggled to find a fairway down the stretch at the famed Surrey, England, course, making bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes to see the the lead the Englishman had held since mid-round Thursday twice shrink to one stroke.
But a pair of clutch par saves on the 17th and 18th holes were enough to keep his advantage from disappearing altogether. When his nearest challenger, Sweden’s Alexander Bjork, bogeyed the 18th hole, Pepperell had sewed up his second European Tour win and arguably the most meaningful victory of the 28-year-old’s professional career.
“It was an absolute grind, a grind for four or five hours,” confessed Pepperell after capping his even-par 72 to finish at nine-under 279. “I didn’t swing it well from the get-go. It was really hard to find it. Just shows how important it is to build a lead sometimes when things are going well for you.”
English fans were not hiding who they were hoping to pull out the victory, as Pepperell began the day with a three-stroke edge on the field, only to see it drop to one at the turn. Yet when he holed-out for an eagle 2 on the par-4 10th hole, he regained his grip on the tournament.
“The crowds are great, I’ve had some great local support around a beautiful golf course—one I've played a lot as a junior and an amateur—so to come and win this event is really special,” Pepperell said.
It wasn’t the only bit of good fortune that Pepperell had during the week, beginning with the memorable—and improbable—hole in one he made on Thursday en route to an opening five-under 67.
Still, the challenge of closing out the victory was a daunting one even as the number of challengers dwindled. Jordan Smith, who began the day in second along with Julian Suri, could only muster a one-over 73. And Suri, shot a closing 74. Matt Wallace and Andrea Pavan, five back to start the day, shot matching 75s.
Only Bjork, who started four strokes back, wouldn’t fade, making birdies on three of his first 11 holes. A bogey on the 13th slowed his momentum, but he lingered long enough to put the pressure on Pepperell.
One back on the 18th hole, Bjork failed to find the fairway and left his second shot in a bunker, leading to an eventual bogey.
In addition to being Pepperell’s second win of 2018, it was also his sixth top-10 finish in his last nine starts as he makes his dark-horse bid to claim the Race to Dubai title. He’s now seventh on the money list with two starts until the three-event playoffs in November.
Moreover, the victory pushed Pepperell from 50th to a projected 35th in the World Rankings. It’s unlikely he’ll fall out of the top 50 before the end of the calendar year, which would secure him his first ever invitation to another Masters tournament, the one at Augusta National in April.