European Tour

Pepperell upbeat ahead of British Masters title defence

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Eddie Pepperell (Getty Images)
Eddie Pepperell (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Eddie Pepperell will defend a European Tour title for the first time in his career as he tees it up at the British Masters at Hillside Golf Club on Thursday.

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The Englishman won last year's British Masters at Walton Heath, his second title of the 2018 season, and has arrived at Hillside in a confident mood, hoping to emulate his achievement last year.

"It certainly felt a bit strange coming back this week having not been in Europe for ages, and just being in a completely different environment and getting used to that, when you come back here, it just feels quite strange... I feel quite relaxed, and as always - well, I try to always focus very hard on my game, so that's occupying my mind," said Pepperell.

"This week I'm quietly confident I guess you could say, but I don't feel like I've played well at all this year. I haven't swung the club as well as I have last year and the year before that. So to have done what I've been able to do so far over the span of a year, I've made the most of it, and that's a positive. So if I can find some form swinging like that, then I'm pretty confident I'll come out this year better than last. Yeah, quiet optimism."

Pepperell will tee it up in the first and second rounds alongside this year's tournament host Tommy Fleetwood, who began his week with victory in the first Hero Challenge of the season at Princes Dock in Liverpool on Tuesday night, and 2019 Indian Open winner Stephen Gallacher.

Making his 18th appearance in the British Masters is former world No 1 Lee Westwood, who hosted in 2017 at Close House.

After a four-year absence from the winner's circle, Westwood won his 24th European Tour title at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November.

The Englishman arrives at Hillside hoping to add a second British Masters crown to his trophy cabinet, having won the event in 2007 at The Belfry - the 46-year-old has previous form at Hillside, winning The Pines Trophy at this course in 1990.

"I'm coming back to somewhere that I've played well in the past and a golf course that I enjoy playing and a tournament I enjoy playing, so it's always nice to play in England in front of the English and British fans," said Westwood.

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