Marc Warren ended last year’s Turkish Airlines Open on a low note after taking 40 shots to the turn on the final day, signing for a 76 and finishing sixth-last in a 78-strong field. It was the start, in fact, of a downward spiral for the Scot. He was close to last behind Russell Knox in the following week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China and only recently returned to form.
Having done so, though, Warren hasn’t just come to Belek looking to take his season all the way to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in a fortnight’s time. He’s here to try to win the first of this season’s Final Series events and, let’s be truthful, would anyone be surprised if he achieved that feat? We are talking, after all, about one very talented golfer. And, with his confidence restored through three consecutive solid performances, including his fifth-place finish in the Dunhill Links, it can certainly be onwards and upwards again for the 33-year-old.
“The Final Series is one of the goals for everyone,” said Warren at the Regnum Carya resort, which is staging the £5.7 million Turkish Airlines Open for the first time after three consecutive visits to the Montgomerie Maxx Royal a few miles west along the Mediterranean coast. “You definitely don’t want to be on the outside looking in and I’ve managed to turn it around in the last three or four weeks.
“First and foremost, I was trying to get into the top 110 in the Race to Dubai to secure my playing rights for next season but then, after a really good finish at the Dunhill, I was able to set my goals a wee bit higher. I was able to follow that up with two good results (joint-22nd in the British Masters then joint-12th in the Portugal Masters) to get here and give myself a chance of playing all three in the Final Series.”
He’s 66th in the Race to Dubai and needs to stay inside the top 72 come Sunday night to get into next week’s Nedbank Challenge at Sun City in South Africa. The leading 60 on the money-list after that event qualify for that season-ending event in the United Arab Emirates and Warren is quietly confident that he can ensure that at least one Scot will be there, with Richie Ramsay (68th) and David Drysdale (92nd) the others still in with a chance of making it to Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“Mentally, I think there was an element of me knowing that I had to do something in the final few weeks of the season and that probably helped me clear my head a bit as opposed to thinking too much about technique,” said Warren of his timely upturn in fortune. “I had to play well, so it was definitely a case of my mind being a bit clearer. The carrot was also right in front of me, of course, and now it would be nice if I could make it all the way to the Tour Championship.
“Dubai is the lowest goal at the minute. That’s the first one I need to tick off to achieve anything else like getting back into the world’s top 50. The world ranking points are quite big these next three weeks but I find it tough to set goals when it comes to world rankings because if you have one or two good weeks at the right time you can move up a lot but, equally, if it’s not the right time then that doesn’t really happen. Consistency of playing well and picking up world ranking points all the time is the important thing.
“Scoring-wise it’s been pretty good the last three events and that was on five different golf courses (Kingbarns, Carnoustie, St Andrews, The Grove in Hertfordshire and Victoria Clube de Golfe in Vilamoura) as well and in different conditions. I felt I played well in all of them and every part of my game has been good. There’s no reason why, if that form continues, I can’t get myself into contention over the next couple of weeks.”
Paul Lawrie, the fourth Scot in this week’s field, is playing on a sponsor’s invitation and can’t progress to either South Africa or Dubai due to the fact he finished outside the top 110 on the money-list. “The biggest reason I’m here is the world ranking points (he’s sitting 377th in the standings) as there are a lot available this week,” said Lawrie. “On the back of Portugal (where he produced his best performance of the season to finish fifth behind Padraig Harrington), I wanted to play once more this year. Then, after here, I’ll be starting rehab on my foot and other bits and pieces, like my shoulder and neck.”
With world No 2 Rory McIlroy having pulled out, Masters champion Danny Willett heads a field that is playing for a top prize worth £950,170.