Eddie Pepperell confessed he was indebted to his “unbelievable” short game as he recovered from some initial wayward ball-striking off the tee to fire a five-under 67 in the first round of the BMW PGA Championship.
The 29-year-old Englishman mixed six birdies with a solitary bogey at Wentworth’s West Course as he built on his top-10 finish at the Scottish Open last week, his best performance for a year.
Pepperell began his campaign in eventful fashion as his drive was so far left of the first fairway that it hit the starter’s hut on the adjacent East Course, but he managed to chip-in for a remarkable par.
He bogeyed the tough par-four third after another errant drive but scrambled well to be two under through the opening eight holes.
“How I was under par after six, seven, eight holes, I have no idea,” Pepperell reflected.
“My short game was unbelievable. My iron play was brilliant and I actually missed a couple of birdie opportunities. My short game and iron play was just like sensational.”
Pepperell admitted he found some confidence midway through the round with a different pre-shot drill, which he admitted was “very difficult to trust”.
Birdies at the 12th, 16th and 17th ensured Pepperell finished among the early pace setters at the European Tour’s flagship event.
“I must say I hit two great shots on 15 and 17, which I think were the only two tee shots coming in which could have undone me the way I was from the fairway, I was playing so well,” he added.
“I mean, definitely the best five-under I’ve ever shot on Tour for sure.”
Pepperell is well accustomed to the major events worldwide, including the tournament which helped launch his career when he finished in a share of sixth place in 2013, and was at a loss to explain the nature of his round.
“So rare. So rare. I mean, the strange thing about the beginning is, I wasn’t even nervous,” Pepperell said.
“They were committed swings. And I sort of said to Mick [Doran] (his caddie), I was like, well, if they were nervy, I wont stand here, but they weren’t nervy swings and they were horrendous shots. I was like, well, I don’t know what that means.”
Despite having knowledge of the West Course over the years, Pepperell conceded it remains a layout that is “always fighting me” and was delighted his showing amid the crowd less surroundings.
He said: “I played a very smart round, and if I can do that for three more days, the feeling I’ve had, the way I’m doing things, I don’t know, I could surprise myself and make a lot of birdies this week, which would be nice.”