Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

Pepperell poised in Doha, co-leads with Havret and rookie Rai

Pepperell hits an approach shot on the 1st hole during the first round of the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club on February 22, 2018. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

By Kent Gray
Eddie Pepperell pens an insightful and often deeply personal blog and his regular musings on social media, even those non golf related, are also anticipated for their thoughtful frankness.

On Thursday, the 27-year-old Englishman did his entertaining not online but instead on course, grabbing a share of the first round lead at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters with Frenchman Grégory Havret and rookie compatriot Aaron Rai.

After missing cuts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before also-ran performances of 80th and T-44 in Kuala Lumpur and Muscat respectively, the seven-under 65 at Doha Golf Club was a unexpected beacon amid a relatively gloomy start to the season. But Pepperell, coming off the back of his career best 41st placing in last season’s Race to Dubai, felt form brewing even in the same week he’s taken on a new coach.

In a tweet on Monday, Pepperell hinted as much in his typically self-deprecating way.

“I hit it so well on the range today I almost posted a video. Then I realised even I don’t give a s…”

He continued on Thursday after a round of eight birdies and a solitary bogey blemish on the par-3 13th.

“I’ve made some changes this week with personnel so I’ve been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it,” he told

“It’s been pretty nice on the range, although yesterday it was a bit of a grind, a bit of a struggle in the afternoon so I was in my room in my boxers doing some drills last night.”

We can confirm the hotel grind via this tweet. Thankfully had a pair of shorts on too.

“I’m looking forward to the weekend but even more so moving forward to the rest of the season. I want to push forward and I just feel like my game has been hitting ceilings a bit. I want to break through that.” So far so good in Qatar.

Like Pepperell, Havret and Rai made the most unusually benign morning conditions at Doha where there was even rain for the first time since last March.

Havret has missed as many cuts as made in six starts this season including at last week’s new NBO Oman Open but produce a bogey-free card that included five gains in a six hole stretch mid round. It was a tasty start for the 41-year-old who is searching for his fourth European Tour title – 10 years after he won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland.

“I was putting well and that’s definitely the key,” Havret said. “Last week I didn’t play much different and I missed the cut by a lot.

“As soon as you feel your putting is not able to compensate for your mistakes you put more pressure on your driving and your iron shots and then it can be a disaster as you try things that you normally don’t. It’s all part of the process, if you putt well you feel comfortable.”

Rai won three times on the Challenge Tour last season to earn automatic promotion to the European Tour but like Havret has had just a 50 percent success rate in terms of cuts made in his six starts on the main tour this far.

He had the most impressive finish of the co-leaders with an eagle three on 18.

“Gameplan-wise, you have to be doing something right and playing some good golf to shoot a 65 so I’ll just continue in the same vein and try not to change too much.”

For the record, England’s Oliver Fisher, Italian Edoardo Molinari, Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and German Marcel Schneider are a shot off the lead after 66s. Among the seven players tied for 8th after 65s are Dubai-domiciled Spaniard Adrian Otaegui and MENA Tour regular Joshua White (ENG).

But the last word, or tweet at least, to Pepperell. How did you celebrate you best Thursday of the season?

It was certainly sweet day for the Englishman.


Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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