Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Zander Lombard won the 2014 British Amateur.
Eddie Pepperell is making up for lost time in this week’s $7 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The Englishman has been conspicuous by his absence in recent weeks, but he’s very much in the spotlight at Lahinch.
Pepperell is one shot off Zander Lombard’s lead after 36 holes. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t played since the PGA Championship. The 28-year-old Pepperell has been out of action with a bad back. There didn’t seem to be much physically wrong with him as he returned a second round, 3-under 67 to go with his opening 65. He sits on 8-under.
“I really had no idea where I was standing at so to have this performance through two rounds is certainly a nice surprise,” Pepperell said. “I’m not hitting the ball perfectly but my short game has been feeling good. We’ll just see how the weekend goes.”
Pepperell has history in the Irish Open. He lost in a playoff to Soren Kjeldsen in 2015. He’d love to go one place better this week, although just being in contention is reward enough after so much down time.
Lombard has history of playing well in big tournaments in Ireland. He was runner-up at the 2014 British Amateur at Royal Portrush. However, he arrived on Ireland’s West Coast in poor form after missing his past six cuts. Yet he’s returned scores of 64 and 67 to get to 9 under and the outright lead.
“I missed a few cuts coming into this week and it’s been three months of hard work,” Lombard said. “I had to change a few things in my physique and how I swing the club, so it’s nice to see the hard work coming off and what a better place to see it happen.
“It’s been really good golf, solid, and I’m just really enjoying being at the top.
“I’m so comfortable on links golf. It’s never just a normal shot, it’s always a little three quarter, a little punch, judging the wind right. I had a good amateur career on links golf and brought it over to my pro career as well.”
Lee Westwood, Jorge Campillo of Spain and India’s Abraham Ancer share third place on 7 under. First round leader Padraig Harrington was 10 shots worse than his opening round, returning a 3-over 73 to sit in joint 21st place.