Marc Warren took a giant step towards retaining his European Tour card and Connor Syme capped a brilliant professional debut as the Scottish duo joined winner Lucas Bjerregaard in giving themselves a reason to feel content at the end of the Portugal Masters in Villamoura.
Pride of place at Dom Pedro Victoria undoubtedly went to Bjerregaard as the 26-year-old claimed his maiden individual victory on the circuit with a closing six-under 65, producing a splendid display of front-running to finish four shots clear of the field with a 20-under-par 264 aggregate.
The triumph, which came in the same season that Bjerregaard joined forces with Thorbjorn Olesen to win the inaugural Golf Sixes in St Albans in May, secured his card for next season as the £295,000 winner’s cheque hoisted him from 164th to 47th in the Race to Dubai.
Warren was equally delighted with his week’s work as far as that particular target is concerned, climbing to 100th from 173rd – the top 100 hang on to their playing privileges – after a last-day 67, which was illuminated by an eagle-3 at the penultimate hole, earned him a pay-day for just under £200,000 as he finished runner-up.
It was the 36-year-old’s first top 10 of the season, having injured his shoulder earlier in the year and only being able to play pain-free in the last few weeks, during which time he has started to rediscover the sort of form that saw him climb into the world’s top 50 around 18 months ago.
“I’d like to add a few more to that,” said Warren of having kept up his record of recording a top-10 finish in each of his last 13 seasons. “It’s just nice to be kind of pretty much 100 per cent fit again. If I keep the driving stats up, the short game is pretty good and I think we can have a good, strong finish to the season.”
As for Syme, not since Gordon Brand Jnr tied for third in the Tunisian Open has a Scot hit the ground running as well as Syme did on his first start in the paid ranks. Hugely impressive from start to finish, the 22-year-old broke par in all four rounds, was bogey-free for his last 49 holes and signed off with a 67 to finish joint 12th on 12-under.
“It was an unbelievable week,” said Syme, who was signed up by Modest! Golf, the management company set up by One Direction band member Niall Horan, after climbing into the world’s top 10 in his final season as an amateur. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I can’t thank the European Tour and Keith Pelley enough for giving me the opportunity as it was awesome to be out there.”
Syme needed to finish in the top 10 to get into this week’s British Masters at Close House in Northumberland. Unless he gets an invitation for that, his next appearance is likely to be in the Dunhill Links on home soil the week after.
“I’ll have to wait and see where I’m stopping off next, but this was mega-encouraging and it is exciting, that’s for sure,” he added. “I didn’t know if I was going to get in here after playing in the Walker Cup and I took advantage of that opportunity.”
Horan, a keen golfer, praised Syme’s effort on social media. “Top guy, top player and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this man,” he wrote on Twitter.
In addition to Warren, Bjerregaard held off South African George Coetzee, English duo Eddie Pepperell and Portuguese pair Ricardo Gouveia and Jose-Filipe Lima to come out on top.
“It feels really good,” said the winner. “I’ve been out here for four years now and, to be honest, you start doubting if it’s ever going to happen because you know you’ve got to have a week where it all comes together and luckily this was the week for me.”
Scott Jamieson (68) finished joint 20th on 11-under while Paul Lawrie (67) and Russell Knox (71) ended up tied for 34th on nine-under.