DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — After opening the year with two missed cuts, Eddie Pepperell surged back into form at the Dubai Desert Classic by shooting 5-under 67 Friday to take the lead after two rounds of the European Tour event.
Pepperell led three players — Bryson DeChambeau (67), Robert Karlsson (68) and Dean Burmester (68) — by a stroke at 8-under overall at Emirates Golf Club.
Tommy Fleetwood birdied five holes in his back nine to shoot 65 for the lowest round of the week, and was four strokes off the lead.
The 61st-ranked Pepperell didn’t make the weekend at either the South African Open or the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this month, failing to shoot below 71 at either event.
The Englishman made some adjustments, switching to a claw putting grip and using some of his old drills in practice, and they have had an immediate effect.
In Dubai, he opened with 69 and followed that up being 6 under after 13 holes of his second courtesy of seven birdies. He dropped a shot at No. 6 — his 15th hole after starting at the 10th — and parred his way home.
“It was very, very good until the cameras came along,” said Pepperell, who is known for his humorous and light-hearted takes on social media. “I must have been concerned with how I was looking, because then I started struggling.”
DeChambeau started with three straight birdies and made seven in total in the second round , which featured better scoring compared to Day 1 because of lighter winds.
If Pepperell and Dechambeau end up going head to head at the weekend, it will make for an interesting dynamic.
In August, Pepperell called the American a “twit” while criticizing his slow play at The Northern Trust tournament on the PGA Tour. Pepperell later apologized.
The European Tour has introduced stricter punishments for the 2020 season in a bid to combat slow play and DeChambeau said he is adjusting.
"I make mistakes and I made mistakes in the past but (I'm) working on improving everything," the 17th-ranked DeChambeau said. “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.”
Burmester, who has missed the cut at his last four events, said he has adopted a new attitude after a taxi he was in with members of his family collided with a Porsche in an accident that involved four vehicles before the tournament in Dubai. The South African has played the first two rounds with a sore ankle.
“After the car accident, you realize what's important in life and I think I was taking golf a little too seriously," Burmester said. "So I just kind of relaxed and looked at the family. We're just enjoying our time, so that's been the biggest difference.”
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