There are few people in the golf world quite like Eddie Pepperell. He is unconventional, thoughtful and outspoken. He’s not afraid to wade through some of the most controversial topics of the day – from Covid to LIV and beyond – but is humble enough not to resent those with differing opinions.
It’s a confluence of qualities you rarely see at the top of professional sports, and it led to a fascinating appearance on the latest Drop Zone podcast, hosted by my colleagues Dylan Dethier and Sean Zak. With Sean overseas in Scotland, Dylan did the wide-ranging interview which left a lot to unpack. But some of the most interesting things came when Pepperell dove into his own game of golf.
By his own admission, Pepperell has been struggling since the pandemic disrupted professional golf. It’s true: he was playing the best golf of his career in 2018 and 2019. He won the DP World Tour twice, finished T6 at the 2018 Open, took third place in the 2019 Players Championship and won climbed to 32nd place in the official ranking. World Golf Ranking. But when the game’s various tours came to a halt, he figured going out for six weeks would be good for a lingering back injury. Instead, it had the unintended side effect of changing his golf swing — and not for the better.
“It’s technique,” he says of his golf swing. “I’m in very different positions now than I was…The iron game is where the magic is in golf. It’s something I did very well before, and it’s something I do very badly sometimes now.
Ditching practice rounds
When things in his game started to take a turn for the worse, Pepperell did what any motivated golfer would do: he started working harder. Although he was always a latecomer, he started showing up to tournaments on Mondays, or earlier, to play extra practice rounds. But after finding himself exhausted and stressed, with no results to show, he decided to give them up altogether.
“If there is a hole, me or my younger brother really feel the need to see it, I will go for a walk,” he said. “But that’s usually all there, just hitting the golf shots. Today I did some bogeys with wedges and 9 irons, it’s not not knowing the golf hole. It’s just being s—.
Pepperell says the biggest benefit of skipping practice rounds is that it “frees up his schedule,” so he can spend more time perfecting his game during those important tournament weeks. It also means that when he arrives there, he is forced to be more efficient in his preparation because he has less time to waste. The dual effect of this means his overall game is more accurate, which outweighs the benefits of spending more time knowing the course.
“It doesn’t happen that often,” he says, when Dylan asks if there are times when not knowing a course hurts his score. “You can know a golf course inside and out, but if you don’t feel like hitting the golf shots, forget it.”
The strategy seems to be working: after a series of missed cuts, Pepperell now has two top 15 finishes in his last five starts (admittedly with a few missed cuts in between). His T11 at the Cazoo Classic last weekend marked his best result since 2020.
Be sure to listen to the full episode below on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.