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Pepperell edges home at Qatar Masters


Eddie Pepperell captured his first European tour title at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on Sunday - but it didn't come easily.

After sharing the third-round lead with compatriot Oliver Fisher and then pulling away into a comfortable three-shot lead at the turn, the 27-year-old Englishman, who shot a 2-under 70 to close with an 18-under 270 total, suddenly found himself in a gruelling battle after Fisher shrugged away three front-nine bogies and came charging back coming down the closing stretch.

In the end, it all came down to a birdie putt from 10 feet at the Doha Golf Club's 18th hole. Fisher needed it to tie Pepperell and force a playoff, but he missed it and the hugely-relieved Pepperell was able to punch the air punch and celebrate. 

"What a day," the delighted Pepperell mused afterwards. "Oli made it really tough and I made it tough for myself at the end there with that second shot at 18."

Here, with victory in sight at the closing par 5, Pepperell found the rough with his second shot to give Fisher a glimmer of hope, but his standout recovery shot all but matched Fisher's third who, after his birdie miss, had to settle for a matching par and solo second place with his 71 and 17-under 271.

Fisher finished one shot clear of Sweden's Marcus Kinhult, whose closing 68 earned him a third place - one stroke clear of a four-man group that included the Spanish duo of Pablo Larrazabal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Renato Paratore.

"I felt good all day," Pepperell said of his maiden triumph. "I felt comfortable. I didn't feel that comfortable with my swing but I was in a great place mentally and I kept telling myself that I'm going to win this one.

"This will give me confidence... You've always got to take that first step. It's not easy but at some point in everyone's career, they've got to do something for the first time. Hopefully, this is not my last."

Pepperell first professional win came in the ALLIANZ Open Côtes d'Armor Bretagne en route to graduating to the European Tour from the Challenge Tour in 2012.

Then, after three relatively solid seasons, he lost his card in 2016 and had to go back to Q-school to get back onto the European Tour in 2017 when he bounced back with true grit and determination. 

He didn't win but he did get four top fives and three top tens from his last ten events and his upward mobility has now seen him make his big breakthrough - with expectations of more to come.

Fisher will be disappointed, of course, that he didn't win, but his runner-up spot did earn him his first top-three finish since the 2014 Africa Open and may just be the kind of move he needs if he is going to add to his lone 2011 Czech Open title.

Fisher, back in the bunch pursuing Pepperell after his three front-nine bogies, began to reel in Pepperell again when he made birdies on the tenth and 12th.

He dropped a shot after finding himself in plugged lie in a bunker at the unlucky 13th, but he immediately hit back at the 14th  with another birdie to get within one of Pepperell - and then held grimly on to that position by matching Pepperell when the leader nailed his second birdie of the day at 16 after an excellent approach. 

But that's where it ended. Fisher was unable to whisk up the critical, last-gasp birdie he so desperately needed to force a play-off and a solid Pepperall made sure he never gave his opponent an opening. 

(Par 72)

270 Eddie Pepperell (ENG) 65 69 66 70
271 Oliver Fisher (ENG) 66 69 65 71
272 Marcus Kinhult (SWE) 68 69 67 68
273 Grégory Havret FRA) 65 69 70 69, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (ESP) 68 68 69 68, Pablo Larrazábal (ESP) 68 67 70 68, Renato Paratore (ITA) 71 66 70 66.
274 Sebastian Heisele (GER) 67 68 71 68, George Coetzee (RSA) 69 66 71 68.
275 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 68 68 69 70, Matthew Baldwin (ENG) 68 70 68 69, Adrian Otaegui (ESP) 67 66 73 69
276 Matthew Nixon (ENG) 69 68 69 70, Seungsu Han (USA) 69 71 69 67, Mark Foster (ENG) 71 68 68 69, David Horsey (ENG) 71 68 65 72, Andrea Pavan (ITA) 68 69 67 72, Chris Wood (ENG) 68 69 68 71.
277 Paul Waring (ENG) 68 70 70 69, Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 66 70 70 71, Jason Scrivener (AUS) 70 70 67 70, Romain Wattel (FRA) 71 69 71 66, Scott Fernandez (ESP) 69 70 71 67, Alexander Björk (SWE) 70 69 69 69, Aaron Rai (ENG) 65 73 69 70, Matt Wallace (ENG) 69 71 67 70, Callum Shinkwin (ENG) 68 69 70 70. 

For betting odds visit BetWay

Neville Leck

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