Dubai: Another dramatic day’s play, another leader as the 31st Omega Dubai Desert Classic was given a sizeable shake-up by the likes of England’s Eddie Pepperell who led the tournament by one shot at the halfway stage on Friday.
Oxford native Pepperell fired a 67 for an eight-under par total as he held on to a slender lead over a threatening trio of golfers led by defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, Swedish veteran Robert Karlsson and South Africa’s Dean Burmester, who was involved in a minor pre-tournament car crash while travelling in an Uber taxi in Dubai.
Frenchman Romain Langasque and China’s Wu Ashun were at six under, a shot clear of South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Dubai-based Sebastian Heisele, American Kurt Kitayama and Victor Perez, also from France.
With the winds receding to some extent at the Emirates Golf Club’s testing Majlis Course, players took their chances with Pepperell showing the way thanks to a modified claw putting grip recommended by fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood.
“I felt more calm today, I would say,” said Pepperell. “Actually I would tend to feel more calm as the week goes on at tournaments.
“So I was happy with how I was feeling early and I got off to a nice start really. For the most part it was very, very good until the cameras came along.
“I must have been concerned with how I was looking, because then I started struggling” he said jokingly.
The last time Pepperell led going into the last 36 holes was in the 2018 British Masters which he would go on to win.
“It will be a great test for me this weekend because this is a golf course where the primary aspect has to be the driver,” he said. “And on a golf course like this that has historically not been my strength.
“So if I can go and drive it well this weekend then I might be celebrating on Monday, we’ll see.”
Playing in the afternoon group DeChambeau made a fast start, faltered at the sixth but then steading the ship with some diligent golf on the back nine to close the gap on Pepperell and set himself up nicely for a charge over the next two days.
“It was a great start to the day, I thought I could maybe birdie them all but that was too high of a goal, obviously,” he said.
“It was fun to be able to play well and get in the clubhouse right next to the lead.
“My wedge game has been immaculate, my putting has been for the most part a success, and iron play has kept me in the proper place.”
The 2017 Race to Dubai Champion Fleetwood was in a group of players four shots off the lead as he shot a 65 that was the lowest score of the week so far.
Lee Westwood, who won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last weekend, narrowly survived the cut, which came at 3-over.
Westwood shot a four-under 68 with the help of six birdies to finish the day on 2-over 72.
1 Eddie Pepperell (ENG) -8
2 Dean Burmester (RSA) -7
2 Bryson DeChambeau (USA) -7
2 Robert Karlsson (swe) -7
5 Romain Langasque (FRA) -6
5 Ashun Wu (CHN) -6
7 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA) -5
7 Sebastian Heisele (GER) -5
7 Kurt Kitayama (USA) -5
7 Victor Perez (FRA) -5
11 Adri Arnaus (ESP) -4
11 Tommy Fleetwood (ENG ) -4
11 Lucas Herbert (AUS) -4
11 Matthieu Pavon (FRA) -4