What a year it has been for English golf. Eddie Pepperell’s victory at the British Masters at Walton Heath on Sunday made it 11 English wins on the European Tour in 2018 and four from the last six events.
It’s also turning out to be a landmark season for Pepperell himself. The 27-year-old from Oxfordshire landed his first win on the tour at the Qatar Masters in February, finished tied for sixth at The Open after shooting the lowest final round, and is now a multiple winner. From 133rd at the start of the year he is up to 33rd in the world rankings, and seventh place in the Race To Dubai.
Considering he had to go through qualifying school to earn his tour card just two years ago he has made a huge step up. Eddie Pepperell has well and truly arrived.
Winning that second title confirms what you can do and elevates you to the ranks of the established players.
This can just be the start for Pepperell, though. He has a good head on his shoulders and I expect big things from him now.
I love the way he plays. His rhythm never changes, he’s not a slasher, he plays within himself and he flights the ball beautifully.
He can look to someone like Tommy Fleetwood and aim to follow him up the ladder. He is not that far behind his fellow Englishman as it is.
Pepperell did fantastically to win the British Masters by two shots. As well as being the venue for my first Ryder Cup in 1981, Walton Heath is a tough course – as his winning score of nine under par illustrates.
On top of that it is always difficult to win on home soil, where you are in the spotlight more, but he handled it extremely well, like an old pro, not doing anything silly.
When Alexander Bjork cut his lead to one shot, Pepperell responded with an eagle at the 10th. Despite missing the fairway, he located the pin from 122 yards and with two bounces it found the hole. It was the perfect golf shot.
That put him three ahead and two good pars at the last two holes saw him home in horrid conditions.
There followed a lovely moment as Pepperell’s parents rushed onto the final green to share in his moment of triumph.
British golf has never been in better shape and there was further evidence at the top end of the leaderboard.
Jordan Smith equalled his best finish of the year by sharing third place, while tournament host Justin Rose did brilliantly to take eighth while juggling all the other commitments that go with that role.
In total, five of the top eight players were English, which is very special. The British Masters itself is a terrific event and it’s a real shame to see suggestions that its future is in doubt due to a lack of appetite from sponsors.
It’s a tournament that is rich in history, dating back more than 70 years, so let’s hope that a commercial arrangement can be found that keeps it on the calendar.
Two years ago Pepperell was sweating on his tour card and it’s the turn of another group of players this week.
The Valderrama Masters, which starts on Thursday, is the last chance for those outside the top 116 places on the Race To Dubai order of merit – the top 110 and six affiliate members are safe – to climb the standings and secure their playing privileges.
It’s a nervy time as these are huge moments for many people.