Pepperell shares British Masters lead after ‘bizarre’ hole-in-one

Eddie Pepperell

British Masters first-round leaderboard
-5 T Fleetwood (Eng), E Pepperell (Eng), M Wallace (Eng); -4 R McEvoy (Eng), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), J Lagergren (Swe), D Lipsky (US), A Levy (Fra)
Selected others: -3 M Fitzpatrick (Eng); -1 D Willett (Eng); E M Kaymer (Ger); +2 J Rose (Eng), L Westwood (Eng), R Ramsay (Sco)
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Eddie Pepperell shot a spectacular hole-in-one on the opening day of the British Masters as he shared the first-round lead with fellow Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Wallace.

Pepperell’s ace came at the ninth, the 27-year-old’s tee-shot spinning back into the cup after hitting the flag.

He followed it with a birdie on the 10th and an eagle on the 11th, eventually finishing on five under.

“It was a bizarre shot from where I was standing,” he said.

“It looked like it pitched in the hole, jumped up and looked like it was going long because of the height it came out, and obviously went in.

“I played awfully in the pro-am on Wednesday – probably the worst I have in a while – and I wouldn’t say I played great today but I had that really hot run and it’s great to be at the top with Matt and Tommy.”

Fleetwood, part of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team earlier this month, also produced a freak shot on the opening day.

The 27-year-old’s tee-shot on the par-three 17th finished in a cup holder in a buggy which had been parked to the left of the green.

He said: “Luckily it didn’t go in the beer in the other cup holder because it would have ruined a drink and the golf ball.”

Fleetwood’s Ryder Cup team-mate and Race to Dubai rival Francesco Molinari is six shots behind, while England’s Richard McEvoy is among a pack of five on four under.

Justin Rose – the competition’s host this year and the 2002 winner – finished his opening round on two over, alongside fellow Englishman Lee Westwood.

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Westwood backs Harrington for 2020 Ryder Cup captaincy

Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington

Lee Westwood has ruled himself out of contention to be Europe’s 2020 Ryder Cup captain and is instead backing Padraig Harrington for the role.

Westwood, 45, had previously expressed an interest in captaining the team at Whistling Straits but now prefers to wait until the 2022 match in Rome.

“I’d like to be playing in two years’ time,” the Englishman told Sky Sports.

“I think Padraig Harrington is the ideal candidate for the captaincy. I’d prefer to do it in Rome if possible.”

Harrington and Westwood were both vice-captains to Thomas Bjorn for the win at Le Golf National last month.

Three-time major winner Harrington, 47, is the favourite to succeed Dane Bjorn for the matches in two years’ time.

Westwood, Europe’s fifth-highest Ryder Cup points scorer, was thought to be the Irishman’s main rival but instead has his eyes on the 2022 matches at Marco Simone near Rome.

Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington

‘Harrington is the favourite’

The European captain is selected by a panel featuring European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, a member of the Tour’s players’ committee and the previous three captains, which this time will be Bjorn plus Irishmen Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.

Bjorn, who will play alongside Harrington and Westwood in the first two rounds of this week’s British Masters at Walton Heath, has suggested Harrington is now the front-runner for 2020.

“There’s a process to go through and I think you’ve got to look at whether we are covering all bases,” he said.

“But I’ve always said when you’ve got somebody that’s a three-time major champion and has the pedigree Padraig has and holds the respect of the players that he does, it would be difficult to see him not doing it at some stage.

“If he wants it this time around, it’s difficult to get around that he is very much the favourite to get the job.”

The selection panel is to meet in December to discuss Europe’s next captain.

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Brooks Koepka voted best in the world

Brooks Koepka poses with trophies

Brooks Koepka has been named as the PGA Tour player of the year for 2018.

The American this year won the US PGA Championship and became the first golfer since 1989 to clinch back-to-back US Open titles.

Koepka, 28, won the award ahead of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Open champion Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas.

PGA Tour members who have played in at least 15 FedEx Cup events in the 2017-18 season were eligible to vote.

Rumours of an argument between Koepka and world number one Johnson at the Ryder Cup, which were denied at the time, have since been confirmed by US captain Jim Furyk.

“Whatever altercation started, or what happened, it was very brief,” Furyk said. “They’re like brothers. Brothers may argue, brothers get into it. But they’re as close as they’ve ever been, and it really had no effect on either one of them.”

There appeared to be no remaining ill-will between the pair, with Johnson tweeting his congratulations