EDDIE Pepperell has high hopes of putting up a strong title defence when the Betfred British Masters starts tomorrow, writes David Pritchard.

Changes to the European Tour calendar mean the Abingdon golfer’s reign as champion has lasted barely seven months.

While his two-shot victory in October came at Walton Heath, the tournament this week is being hosted at Hillside in Southport.

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The victory helped lift Pepperell into the world’s top 50, which has granted him access into a series of high-profile tournaments in North America.

But he is relishing the prospect of competing on home soil, particularly at a links course.

And the 28-year-old, who was unable to defend his Qatar Masters title in March due to his commitments in the United States, is in no mood to let go of this crown easily.

He said: “It will be nice to be back playing in England.

“I’m happy to be defending it. From what I’ve heard it’s a great course.

“This week there will be some sense of different feelings as the defending champion.

“I think if my game is in a decent spot I’m hopeful I can play some good golf.

“I’m quietly hopeful. I’ve seen some nice things in practise.”

Pepperell has rested up for a fortnight since finishing in a share of 16th place at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina.

Now he returns to action with back-to-back events on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The US PGA Championship follows next week at Bethpage, New York.

It is the second major of the season, but Pepperell has devoted most of his build-up to delivering on the Merseyside coast.

He said: “It will be a completely different game to the US PGA.

“From my perspective I want to win this week – this is the one that’s more achievable.

“I have prioritised my iron play.

“I have always felt playing links golf is about iron play – and if I’m swinging it well that’s right up my street.

“I have definitely tried to focus on those types of things coming into this week.”

Pepperell’s win last autumn was sealed after battling challenging weather conditions.

The elements could have an impact again, but that would not concern the Frilford Heath member.

He said: “I feel like I have been on the right side of things over the last year – I’ve hung in there at the right times and not given up.

“Sometimes when you persevere it can pay off.

“No matter how well I’m swinging it this week, the conditions might dictate a grind.

“I’m looking forward to it.”