THE European Tour schedule has been a bit stop-start so far this season. So, too, by his own admission, has Marc Warren’s game.
Tying for sixth in a new event at Sotogrande in Spain last month is his only top-10 finish so far, yet the 33-year-old is quietly confident he can challenge again in this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Twelve months ago, Warren led by one shot with four holes to play in the European Tour’s flagship event before losing to Matteo Manassero in a play-off that also involved Simon Khan.
It was a bitter disappointment for Warren, but he’s ready to go again on the West Course, where he will be among 14 Scots setting out in the £3.9 million event tomorrow. “This is always a week I look forward to, no matter what,” he admitted. “I feel as if I’ve played well here the last few years, and last year I was so close to winning. It’s our biggest event on Tour, so I’ve been itching to get back here.”
Some have struggled to fall in love with Wentworth. Padraig Harrington, for example, has never been a big fan, though the Irishman is among ten major winners in this week’s field.
“What I like about Wentworth is that it requires a lot of different shots,” added Warren of a venue that has been stiffened up considerably through changes made in recent years by Ernie Els. “I enjoy that kind of golf, and the greens are normally pretty firm.
“The holes go kind of every which way. I really enjoy that. It sets up some holes. You stand on the tee and there’s an obvious kind of shot. Over time, you get to know the course and the greens. In a way, it’s like the Old Course at St Andrews. You have to play different shots into the greens to get close.
“It’s not about hitting it high into the green and making it stop. You have to think about it. If you’re swinging well, that’s the type of golf I really enjoy.”
After putting himself on the cusp of victory a year ago, Warren dropped a shot at the 15th then, after being unable to convert a 20-foot birdie putt at the last, changed his strategy from the tee at the first extra hole – the 18th – and duly found trouble.
“The good thing last year was that I felt there was nothing else I could have done,” he reflected. “I had two great putts on 17 and 18. If one of those goes in, I could have won it. With my pitch at the 17th, it got such a soft bounce, looking back at it on TV. A couple of little things like that. I hit it close at 16, but I had such a difficult putt there. I wouldn’t have taken either of those putts at 17 and 18 back. They both just burned the hole.”
For some, Warren had been marked down as a dark horse in the Ryder Cup race. An appearance in that this September now seems unlikely, though winning an event like this week’s could certainly spark a challenge to make Paul McGinley’s team.
“So far this season, I’ve played a wee bit like the schedule, stop, start,” he admitted, though a lesson from his coach, Peter Cowen, in Spain last week could just be what Warren needs for his game to click.
“I hadn’t seen Pete since the Middle East at the beginning of February,” he added. “So it was great to meet up with him again during the Spanish Open in Girona. It was good. He said the majority of what I was doing was good. There were just a couple of things that needed clearing up.
“Tee to green I’ve absolutely no complaints, and I did a bit of work on putting at PGA Catalunya. I’d say my game at the moment is very similar to this time last year. I’ve got that control, everything seems to be coming in sync. It feels better.”