Pepperell gets in the swing with claw-like putting grip to climb leaderboard in Dubai

EDDIE PEPPERELL led the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic after two rounds thanks after a better putting display
Second round leader Eddie Pepperell has been putting better after switching to the claw grip. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

OXFORDSHIRE’S EDDIE Pepperell was happy putting his faith in feeling his way around Emirates Golf Club.

The two-time Euorpean Tour winner carded a round of 67 to take a one-shot lead at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic after 36 holes.

Lighter winds made for better scoring in round two and the Frilford Heath member took advantage of the morning condiitions to move to eight-under.

Pepperell, who is looking for a second win in the Middle East after his maiden victory at the Commerical Bank Qatar Masters nearly two years ago, said: “I’ve played with swing feels for a few years.

“I have a couple of drills that have given me some quite strong ones and that’s where I’ve had a lot of success, to be honest.

“It might look very technical with me but believe it, or not, in my mind it doesn’t feel that way.

“At least certainly when I’m doing pretty good, because it’s all about feeling.

“I felt more calm today, I would say. Actually, I would tend to feel more calm as the week goes on at most tournaments,” added the 28-year-old, from Abingdon, who played junior golf at Drayton Park.

“I was happy with how I was feeling early and I got off to a nice start.

“For the most part it was very, very good until the cameras came along. I must have been concerned with how I was looking, because then I started struggling.

“When I looked at my putting in the past I’ve always felt that when I look at my set-up I’ve never looked that comfortable.

“Regardless of what your hands are doing on the grip, great putters tend to look quite comfortable.

“So that’s one thing I’ve never liked about my setup. It’s been very good the past two days and I’ve been surprised with how good it’s been.

“If I can keep doing that over the weekend, with what I’ve been doing with the swing, I think I’m going to make plenty of birdies which would be great.”

Pepperell who has vastly experienced caddy Micky Doran on the bag, has missed his last two cuts and has gone back to some old drills.

He switched to a claw putting grip as he looks to kickstart his 2020 Race to Dubai campaign after wathching Lee Westwood find some form on the greens on the way to his 25th career win in Abu Dhabi, last week.

The 2018 British Masters champion is a shot clear of defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, South African Dean Burmester and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson heading into the weekend.

DeChambeau would love to repeat his win of 12 months ago and then go on to win the Masters as Danny Willett did in 2016 and Sergio Garcia in 2017 after claiming the Dubai title.

“My wedge game has been immaculate, my putting has been – for the most part – a success, and iron play has kept me in the proper place,” said DeChambeau.

“Hit a couple of nice drives today and getting better with my driving. Just got to iron out a couple more things when the pressure gets to me, or certain situations occur.

DeChambeau spent time after the FedEx Tour Championship in August bulking up in the gym, piling on the pounds, in a bid to give him extra yards off the tee.

And DeChambeau revealed: Well it has opened new boundaries that I never thought were possible.

“I don’t know necessarily how to control all of it yet.

But I’m getting to the place where I’m starting to learn with driver I need, under the gun – in certain conditions, a left-to-right wind, a right-to-left wind, what to do, and how to apply that power in a way that’s going to keep me in the fairway, and allow me to have more scoring opportunities.

“It’s a gigantic leap for me,” said DeChambeau, who has also addressed the criticism of some – including World No. 1 Brooks Koepka about his “slow play.”

“I would say it is about getting just more comfortable on the golf course, recognising the fact that I’m not perfect.

“I make mistakes and I made mistakes in the past but working on improving everything.

“That’s my whole goal for the game of golf is not only to make myself a better player – but to have people have a more enjoyable experience when I’m around.

“And that’s really what I’m trying to do, so I don’t bother anybody on the golf course, that’s the last thing I want to do.

“I made it a point to work on it and I’ve gotten a little bit better and I think it shows.”

Meanwhile Burmester revealed he has adopted a new mental attitude after being involved in a car accident ahead of the tournament.

His family were also involved in the collision on Wednesday, with all members thankfully escaping with only minor injuries.

Burmester said: “The accident was pretty hectic. We went to the aquarium and on our way back we took an Uber on the way back to the hotel.

“There was traffic on the other side of a blind rise and so we went into the back of a Porsche.

“There were four cars involved, but luckily we just got away with a couple of bumps and bruises and just thank God that we’re all okay.

I think for the most part I putted really well and I’ve just been consistent trying to hit fairways, because the rough’s quite deep.

“So, for me to hit fairways is pretty good. I think the major difference is probably my mental attitude towards it.

“After the car accident you realise what’s important in life and I think I was taking golf a little too seriously.

“So I just kind of relaxed and looked at the family. We’re just enjoying our time, so that’s been the biggest difference.”

A sore ankle did not look to bother him as he carded a round of 68 putting himself in contention heading into the weekend.

Karlsson seeks first win in a decade

ROBERT Karlsson was the first Swede to be crowned European No. 1 after claiming the Order of Merit in 2008, the year before the introduction of the Race to Dubai.

The tall Scandinavian, who turned 50 in September, is putting his energy into his search for a first win since 2010 – when he claimed the Dubai World Championship in 2010, beating Ian Poulter in a play-off.

A victory just over nine years later would put him in the category of over 50s winners on the European Tour alongside Miguel Angel Jimenez – only three players have achieved that feat in the PGA Tour’s history.

Karlsson, who played in the 2006 and 2008 Ryder Cups, said: “Yesterday, on a very tough day, I kept the ball in play and when I missed I was a little bit lucky.

“I hit it in the fairway bunkers instead of the rough and I holed a lot of important putts.

“Today I actually hit more fairways and it was obviously much nicer weather. I played nicely.

“The tricky thing is we had a couple of years where they set it up a little bit nicer around the greens, with less rough.

“I think players want to have a bit tougher conditions and I’m very, very happy the way that they set it up.

“That’s been my personal response from the players. The problem on this golf course is there’s a lot of doglegs where you cut across, so it’s really hard to hit fairways on holes like one and six and 18.

“But everybody knows it and you play for it, so, but I like it.”

Frenchman Romain Langasque and China’s Wu Ashun are two shots off the lead at six-under, a shot clear of South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout, German Sebastian Heisele, American Kurt Kitayama and another Frenchman in Victor Perez.

Tommy Fleetwood fired the lowest score of the day with an impressive round of 65, edging his way back up the leaderboard to head the chasing pack at four-under, thanks to a strong putting display.

First-round leader Thomas Pieters could not repeat his birdie fest of 24 hours earlier, taking 10 shots more after an opening 67.

•To follow live scoring in the third round click here.

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