It was snowing in Scotland before Marc Warren left to start his season on the European Tour’s Desert Swing. He had a ball in the winter wonderland around Glasgow with his young son, Archie. The whiteout also helped him feel like a kid himself as he was practising for the new campaign.
“Before coming out here, I was on the range at Mearns Castle Golf Academy and was picking out targets, goalposts whatever, and trying to shape shots through them,” said the 34-year-old, speaking in the United Arab Emirates. “Then, after the snow on the weekend before I travelled out, I was trying to hit the snow off the top of little blocks of wood as I was practising my chipping. It was the sort of simple thing you did when you were a kid.”
Keeping things simple is Warren’s main priority this season. He’s determined not to get himself too tangled up with technical thoughts out on the golf course. “Ideally, I’d like to get totally away from technique and concentrate on the skills of hitting the shots,” he added, speaking on the eve of the Qatar Masters in Doha, where he finished runner-up to South African Branden Grace 12 months ago. “Look at Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. They play golf like how a kid would play, it definitely seems there’s a lot of freedom there. That’s got to come first and foremost.
“It’s tough getting out on the course and be free when there is something technical to think about. So, we’ve had a few meeting with the people round about me – Alan McCloskey, Stuart Cage, Phil Kenyon and Lee.
“We think that’s definitely the way to go. My mindset in tournaments is fine when my game is good technically. But, when it starts to go off, you get even more technical. Ideally when your game goes off you should get more into targets and shaping shots, which I’m normally good at. Don’t try and be technically perfect to play well, just play.”
Warren used his second-placed finish in the middle of the three Desert Swings events last year as the launch pad for his best-ever season on the European Tour, finishing 25th in the Race to Dubai. Another title-challenging performance this week would be useful in his bid to get into both the WGC-Cadillac Championship and WGC-Dell Match Play.
They both take place before the Masters and it would be fitting if Warren could make up for the bitter disappointment of being a week too late last year in finding himself in the top 50 in the world rankings, missing out on his debut at Augusta National.
“Last year Qatar was a springboard for me,” said the world No 77. “The next three weeks were really good. Dubai was a good week, Malaysia was good and also Thailand, which got me into Doral. That’s the first target for me again this year and I feel that if I can string a few good weeks together I can achieve that.”
Having worked his socks off at the weekend after missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, two-time champion Paul Lawrie will be hoping to be a contender again in an event that has Sergio Garcia spearheading the field. Richie Ramsay, Stephen Gallacher, David Drysdale, Craig Lee, Scott Jamieson, Andrew McArthur, Jamie McLeary and Clarke Lutton complete the Scottish contingent, the latter having secured a sponsor’s invitation along with 1995 Open champion John Daly.
For McArthur, it’s his first outing since the former Scottish Amateur champion graduated from the Challenge Tour in November. “I’m looking forward to teeing it up again,” admitted the Glaswegian, who opted to skip three South African events over the past couple of months.
“I’ve been in Dubai this last week practising at both Jumeirah Golf Estates and The Emirates. My game seems decent, but I’m going to stick to my low expectations, high tolerance approach (if I can!) and we’ll see how that pans out.”