By Evin Priest – PGA Tour editor
Australian Golf Digest caught up with popular European Tour player Eddie Pepperell on the range at Bay Hill ahead of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. We weren’t able to find out what the Englishman said during the censored section of that hilarious European Tour “content committee” video. However, the 2018 Qatar Masters and British Masters champion chatted about playing extra events in the US this year, the recent rules controversies and his upcoming Masters debut at Augusta National.
Australian Golf Digest: Eddie, you’re making your debut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week. How excited are you for Bay Hill and how do you like the course from what you’ve seen?
Eddie Pepperell: “Yeah, very excited to be here. The course was playing really long (in practice) today. It was playing like a major course, to be honest. But I don’t think it’s going to be play that long (during the tournament) with the weather we’re going to have. The course looks to be in fantastic shape.”
AGD: What have you made of the rules changes and the controversy that has unfolded, particularly in the past few weeks?
EP: “I think there are unintended consequences you can’t ever foresee. On the face of it, you could make those rules changes and everyone would be fine with them. You have to give humans the benefit of the doubt; it was always with the best of intentions. Certain scenarios have come up that make the decisions look poor, but I don’t think the USGA or the PGA Tour or anyone is to blame for that. It is what it is. It’s human nature. I’m sure it will be fine.”
AGD: Some have said it’s not that hard for a player to not have their caddie line them up. That, if players simply followed the rules, these controversial penalties wouldn’t have happened. Is that fair, or is there more to it?
EP: “There are lots of caddies who like to stand behind so that their player can pick a target for them. That’s not aiding. Caddies get paid pretty well, and stuff like that is why we pay caddies. I don’t think we should be eliminating their job. If there was blatant lining up of the putter face, fine. But it didn’t happen that often (before the changes), anyway. Certainly, the cases we have seen this year (Haotong Li and Denny McCarthy) – there was just no way the caddie was lining them up. Particularly McCarthy [McCarthy received a two-shot penalty at the Phoenix Open for violating Rule 10.2b (4) which was later rescinded by the PGA Tour and USGA]. It was just bonkers he was penalized. But the rules are the rules, aren’t they?”
AGD: You qualified for next week’s Players Championship, as well as the Masters, courtesy of being in the top 50 on the world rankings. How much are you looking forward to putting a few more US events on your schedule this year?
EP: “The schedule is phenomenal for me this year. This is all new for me (on the PGA Tour) which is cool; it’s nice to have a new challenge. I haven’t been playing particularly great, and I haven’t been swinging it great. Historically, I’ve never played great at this time of the year, either. I’m expecting it to be a couple of challenging weeks. In terms of the broader career I hope to have, this is nothing more than a free go at it. I’m not a member of the PGA Tour and there’s no pressure on me. These events I’m here to try enjoy myself as best I can and meet some people out here.”
AGD: April will be your Masters debut at Augusta National. Do you expect to geek out and drop some large amount of cash in the merchandise tent?
“I think it’s the only event where I might buy some merchandise; I might buy a shirt or two. But I won’t be inclined to wear them back home, because I know what people will be thinking; ‘Oh, look at that twat wearing his Masters shirt’ [laughs]. What I will do is probably buy a hat or two to wear while walking my dog … that would be what I will probably do.”