Marc Warren convinced he will bounce back
The 32-year-old admitted he learned some “harsh lessons” last Sunday, when he failed to win the Spanish Open in Valencia despite taking a two-shot lead into the final round and appearing to be in pole position for most of the closing day.
Dropped shots at four of the last five holes saw Warren, who had hardly put a foot wrong over the first three rounds at El Saler, miss out on a marathon play-off that was won by Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin.
It followed Warren’s late collapse in last year’s Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, where he had one hand on his home title before dropping three shots in the final four holes. But the former World Cup winner believes the two instances were completely different.
“What happened this time was nothing like what went wrong at Castle Stuart,” insisted Warren. Referring to a wayward tee shot that led to a double-bogey 6 at the 15th there, he added: “That was purely a mental error – a total loss of concentration.
“This was different because I actually hit the shots I wanted to hit. There isn’t a whole lot I would change. It’s just the closing stretch at El Saler is one of the toughest we play on Tour and the course got the better of me over the closing few holes.”
Warren, who signed off with 76 to finish in a tie for fourth, has now moved on to South Korea, where he is among six Scots teeing up in today’s opening round of the £1.9 million Ballantine’s Championship at Blackstone Golf Club in Incheon.
“The ten-and-a-half hour flight here gave me plenty of time to have a long, hard think about what had happened,” added the two-times Tour winner. “The more I looked back on the four days, the more positive I began to feel. I played almost flawless golf from tee to green all week.
“I was bitterly disappointed not to go on and win but I am not going to beat myself up about it. Instead, I want to use last week as a springboard to bigger and better things.
“It was great to feel the buzz of being involved down the stretch once more. I’m also learning loads about how to deal with handling a lead with a trophy on the line. Whenever I’ve won in the past, I have always come from behind. I’d never led a tournament going into the final round before.
“There’s a different pressure involved when you’re the one who’s being hunted and the more I put myself there, the better I will become at dealing with it. As long as I keep giving myself chances, I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before I cross the finish line in front.”
Joining Warren in the hunt for a £310,000 top prize are Stephen Gallacher, Scott Jamieson, Richie Ramsay, Peter Whiteford and Paul Lawrie, who is hoping to fare better with a golf club than a cocktail mixer in his hands over the next few days.
“The official Ballantine’s dinner was last night with 650 people attending,” reported the Aberdonian on his official blog. “We had some photographs taken of the players making cocktails. . . it turned out I’m nae a barman!”
Another former Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen, is the highest-ranked player in the field and he feels comfortable in South Korea despite the fact American duo Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson pulled out earlier this week due to safety concerns following threats from neighbouring North Korea.
Oosthuizen, the world No 7, isn’t concerned about anything that may be happening off the course. I’ve seen a lot of this tournament on television and heard a lot of good things about it from Ernie [Els], so it was an easy decision for me to make,” said the South African. “Plus they made it even easier for me by putting up a plane all the way from the States over here, so that was really nice of them.”