Eddie Pepperell facing up to harsh realities that could be in place when golf returns

Eddie Pepperell accepts European Tour players will face “serious pay cuts”, but is excited about the possibility of a congested schedule once golf does return.

It was revealed earlier this week that Tour chief executive Keith Pelley had emailed all professional members warning of a “radically different” European Tour outlook when golf is given the all-clear to return following the coronavirus pandemic.

The email outlined the probability of reduced prize funds, the possibility of two tournaments being played a week, and many events having significant reductions in infrastructure.

Pepperell agreed that top-earning golfers should be willing to accept pay cuts similar to that of professional footballers, and he remains hopeful that the European Tour can rebuild after a lengthy period of inactivity.

“Obviously, selfishly, I hope things will be fine,” Pepperell told Sky Sports News. “I suspect they won’t be. I suspect we’re going to have to take a serious pay cut. But if golfers and footballers and high-earners have to take a 30-to-50 per cent pay cut, this isn’t a disaster.

“I do have concerns. I’m not naturally the most optimistic person in the world, but I can see a scenario where the European Tour comes out of this OK, with some legs to stand on. The Tour and its sponsors may survive much in the way they did 10 years ago.

“I just hope that individuals, small businesses and people who have really taken risks over the last few years to make something of their lives come out the other end of this. Big companies can always survive, but my brother is a golf pro and I know he’s going to face difficulties.”

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But Pepperell is not optimistic that the Ryder Cup can go ahead as scheduled at the end of September, which could be good for his chances of making his debut in the contest.

Two years ago he came close to making Thomas Bjorn’s team in Paris, and said his aim was to make the 2020 team, but his form over the last year has seen him slide down the world rankings, however, with just one top-10 finish since July.

“If it is postponed, then it gives me theoretically more chances to get in the team,” he added. “From what I’m hearing, the 2022 Ryder Cup [in Italy] isn’t going to budge, so it’d be interesting to have back-to-back Ryder Cup years.

“I can’t see how they can keep the qualification process the same with theoretically only one major before the Ryder Cup that will count. I can’t see how Padraig Harrington is going to be keen to keep the same system, he’s going to have to change the way he picks.

“Maybe come September when things are clearing up, we’re going to be itching for something like the Ryder Cup. It could come at a brilliant time and I know Whistling Straits is just amazing, so it is going to be a great Ryder Cup there.”

Questions over quarantine

The PGA Tour are expected to announce soon that they will be returning to action in mid-June, with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial starting on June 11, a prospect described as “seemingly optimistic and unrealistic” by Pepperell, who does, however, think he will be teeing up at TPC Harding Park for the PGA Championship in August.

“We’re still quite a long time away from August. I could see it happening, but maybe with no crowds,” he said. “The issue is how international the field is. You’re going to have Asian, South American or African players who may be under severe travel restrictions so then, how fair is it? Personally, I would go if it’s deemed safe to do so.”

But Pepperell would not be as keen to endure a period of quarantine ahead of the tournament, adding: “I’m not in that much of a hurry to get back to golf that I’d be willing to quarantine myself in a hotel for a week beforehand. That would change the game for me.”

And the two-time European Tour winner insisted he would be in favour of multiple tournaments in the same week, as suggested in the email from Pelley, with potentially four tournaments being played back-to-back in the UK.

“It would be great,” he said. “If someone said to me now that, come September, we’re going to be playing 15 events before Christmas, crikey that would be something to look forward to.

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