EDDIE Pepperell begins his challenge in 2020 today knowing a strong beginning to the year would bring big benefits.

The golfer from Abingdon tees off at the South African Open at 10.10am (GMT) alongside home favourite Charl Schwartzel and Belgium’s Thomas Detry.

He does so having dropped out of the world’s top 50 last month.

That means he is no longer certain to play in some of the biggest events in the United States, including the Masters and the Players Championship.

But a good finish in Johannesburg, or at tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai later this month, would restore the 28-year-old’s status among the sport’s elite.

He said: “It’s a bit more up in the air.

“If I have a decent result early in the year then there’s a chance my schedule will look exactly the way it did.”

While he missed just four cuts in 2019, there were only three top-ten finishes.

And the disappointment of regularly being unable to challenge at the sharp end came out at the Turkish Airlines Open in November.

Pepperell made headlines by repeatedly finding the water attempting to make a shot in his third round, before having to disqualify himself by running out of balls.

He said: “I think most people reading between the lines will know it was just one of those days where my head came off somewhat.

“The last six months had felt very frustrating on the golf course.

“It just came together in a moment of madness.

“It’s golf, we all have our little moments and I’m sure I’ll have more in the future.

“That’s my character.

“I’ve done a decent job as I’ve got a bit older of keeping a lid on it at times.

“But you’re never going to do it all the time and I wouldn’t want to, because I need that drive to figure things out and move forward.

“I love when I see people lose their heads because it shows we’re different.

“I wouldn’t want to live in a world where all sportsmen are robots and say the same cliched things.”