IT must have been music to Marc Warren’s ears. He had just finished some chipping practice at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and on the way out of the range was met by Paul McGinley.
“Well done, Marc, in the Royal Trophy and also the Seve Trophy before that,” remarked Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, sporting a snazzy bunnet not too dissimilar to those worn at times over the years by a certain Tom Watson.
“I hope you’ll remember that,” joked Warren in reply, the Glaswegian having received confirmation nonetheless that McGinley is well aware of his performances in two team events last year.
Warren picked up three points from five for the Great Britain & Ireland team beaten by Continental Europe in the Seve Trophy in Paris, then was undefeated in three matches as he helped Europe win the Royal Trophy in China last month.
Lying 117th in the world rankings, the 32-year-old appears to have his work cut out to be on McGinley’s team for the September showdown but, having won over the PGA Championship Course at Gleneagles in the 2007 Johnnie Walker Championship, he could well emerge as one of the dark horses in the battle for three wild cards.
“The Royal Trophy was good fun,” admitted Warren, one of eight Scots teeing off in today’s first round of the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship.
“Team golf is not something we do as professionals. As amateurs, we played it a lot. But I really enjoyed both the Royal Trophy and Seve Trophy last year.”
Warren joined forces with Dunhill Links champion David Howell to win in the foursomes then secure a half in the fourballs before the Scot registered a superb singles victory over Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa as the European side, led by Jose Maria Olazabal, pulled off a dramatic last-day fightback.
“I had a few new clubs in the bag and a new ball, so it was good to test them under tournament conditions before the first event of the year,” added Warren, who also has a new caddie carrying that bag this week.
He has linked up with Ken Herring, who has worked for the likes of Thomas Bjorn and Thomas Levet in the past.
“Thomas Bjorn recommended him highly to me when we had a chat at the Tour Championship,” revealed Warren. “I like the way he goes about his business and he’s experienced enough to not get up or down by good or bad shots. We’ll do the first four weeks and see how it goes, but I’ve got high hopes and think it should be a good partnership.”
In a partnership that has recently ended, Fifer Peter Whiteford has split with his long-time coach, Wellsgreen-based Donald McKay, and is now working with Gary Nicol.
“Donald has taught me all my life and it wasn’t easy having to say to him that I was changing coaches,” admitted Whiteford, who ended up 88th in the Race to Dubai.
“It was pretty difficult and not nice, but the great aspect is that Donald understood and we will always remain good friends. And maybe that was part of the reasons I was struggling as we had maybe become too friendly.
“So with Gary I am not going to be making drastic changes and it’s all about looking at aspects of my game in a new light. I saw Gary twice before I came out here to the Middle East and a quick half-an-hour just before leaving home so I’m looking forward with these new thoughts in my head to a better year than last year, as 2013 was probably one of my worst seasons out here.
“It doesn’t look that bad on paper and I managed to keep my card, but basically it was just a couple of decent weeks and the rest of the time I wasn’t even close.”