Golf: British golfer Pepperell voices concern over European Tour

A 2018 photo shows Pepperell in action during the PGA Championship. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - British golfer Eddie Pepperell said on Tuesday (July 21) he is concerned for the future of the European Tour given the "frankly terrifying" state of the global economy due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tour starts its newly formed British swing on Wednesday at the British Masters after returning to action with two events in Austria earlier this month.

Pepperell, ranked 82nd in the world, won the British Masters in 2018 and was runner-up last year.

The tournament, at Close House Golf Course in north-east England, has a prize fund of €1.25 million (S$2 million) and is the first of six consecutive events in Britain.

The remaining five tournaments have purses of one million euros each and are funded by the European Tour itself.

In stark contrast, the US-based PGA Tour has been providing full prize funds since it returned last month and US$10.5 million (S$14.5 million) is up for grabs at next week's WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational.

Pepperell, 29, personally feels under no financial pressure to play, but is concerned about the broader picture for the European game.

"I worry more about the cascading effects because if we're playing for 30 per cent less then that has a knock-on effect," he said.

"I don't pay my caddie as much, I don't pay my coach as much, I don't pay my physio as much so they're not as wealthy and that's what concerns me with not just golf obviously.

"It's the whole situation we see around the world, the deflationary aspect of it which is frankly, a little terrifying."

Asked if he feared for the future of the European Tour, Pepperell added: "I suppose so, but ultimately there's probably a dozen companies on the planet that could have survived this crisis without massive intervention and they are the Apples and Amazons of the world."

'MILITARY-STYLE' TESTING

Meanwhile, British Masters host Lee Westwood is confident the strict approach taken by the European Tour will ensure a tournament free from virus issues.

All players, caddies and officials were tested for the virus before travelling to the venue and again when arriving on site, with anyone testing positive being forced out of the event to self-isolate.

"It's up to us to be very careful and so far, from what I've witnessed, people are sticking to it by the letter, wearing masks and staying away from each other as much as they can," Westwood said.

"I was amazed at the system the European Tour have set up. We all got tested before we travelled and then once at the event the testing procedure has been very thorough.

"Everyone that has been through it can only have found it impressive and it's military-style almost.

"They seem to have thought of everything, including getting checked every day when you get up to see if you have symptoms.

"There's not a moment in the day when it doesn't feel like your health is being checked or somebody's got an eye on you and that's probably a good thing right now."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.