Marc Warren survived six days of “unpleasant golf” to secure a European Tour card for 2019, increasing the circuit’s Scottish tally to 11 – two more than this year’s total.
The 37-year-old finished 19th in the six-round Qualifying School at Lumine Golf in Spain, where compatriot Duncan Stewart came up agonisingly short as he missed out on a card by a single shot.
Warren’s success came as a relief to the three-time tour winner after he’d been left having to fight for his future in the event for the first time since 2010 due to finishing 130th in this season’s Race to Dubai.
“I think I underestimated how tough it is,” admitted the Glaswegian after signing off with a three-under 68 for a 17-under 411 total, seven shots behind Spaniard Alejandro Canizares and South African Zander Lombard as they shared top spot.
“You just have no idea what you need to do. You try and keep moving forward in some way but are trying not to make mistakes as well. It’s not a pleasant way to play golf but obviously there’s a means to an end with it.
“Hopefully you learn the right things and this week I think I have shown a level of patience that I wouldn’t say I have been great at in the past. Pretty much every shot I stood over, commitment was going through my head all the time and in between it was a case of trying to stay patient. You see guys 18 or 20 under and feel you have to make a lot of birdies yourself. It was trying to convince myself it was a marathon not a sprint.”
Warren will join Russell Knox, Stephen Gallacher, Scott Jamieson, David Drysdale, Richie Ramsay and Paul Lawrie in flying the Saltire once again on the tour, where they are set to be joined by four newcomers – Grant Forrest, Liam Johnston, Bob MacIntyre and David Law.
“The last few weeks have been pretty long,” admitted Warren, who was in a position to retain his card heading into the final round of the Valderrama Masters earlier this month before finishing joint-11th behind the host, Sergio Garcia.
“This season hasn’t been great and it was a poor summer. I was pretty proud of my effort at Valderrama, a course I’ve not done well at in the past. I took a lot of confidence from how I felt and being in the last group and felt I gave a good account of myself. I felt that if I played to that standard I would be okay this week.”
On a nerve-wracking final day at the Tarragona venue, the World Cup winner was three-under after 16 but wasn’t sure whether he’d dropped one or two shots at the 17th before making a birdie at the last. “I was half a club out at 17, just left of the flag, and finished up in a horrible sandy lie on the tongue of the bunker,” he said of that uncertainty at just the wrong time.
“I had to take a bit of an awkward stance and, as I started my back swing, my foot has totally given way in the sand and I’ve tried to stop the club hitting the ball so have pulled out of the shot. But the club went past the ball and we were a little bit unclear if it was a penalty because of that. Thankfully, I made 4 at the last and also, thankfully, it wasn’t a penalty shot at 17.”
Bidding to regain the privileges he held in 2017, Stewart was in a card-winning position before dropping a shot at the fifth – his 14th. A closing 68 left him in joint-28th on 15-under. Connor Syme (66) ended up on 10-under, a shot ahead of Craig Ross (69). They have all secured Challenge Tour categories for next season.