Regaining European Tour card is dream come true, says Marc Warren
The 39-year-old’s Austrian Open success on Sunday on the circuit’s restart following a four-month shutdown due to the pandemic, has secured his place back at the top table after two torrid seasons.
Instead of staying on for the Euram Bank Open, the second leg of a double-header in Austria, co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour, Warren has returned home to get himself ready for the European Tour’s full return.
He’s straight into next week’s Betfred British Masters, which is being hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House, near Newcastle, and can also now play in the other tournaments on a new six-event UK Swing.
“Obviously the timing couldn’t be better,” Warren, speaking from Prague airport before flying home, told The Scotsman. “It’s been a tough time for everybody due to the coronavirus, so to change my year around so quickly by winning the first event back is a dream come true.
“Nothing else would have done that other than a win last week or this week. To do it last week and have a week at home, practising and preparing and also have some time with the family ahead of the British Masters is amazing.
“I felt as though I was going to be on the outside looking in with the UK Swing coming up, but to be able to pick and choose where I can play now seems to be a bit surreal. That’s given me the freedom to play where I want to.”
Warren’s fourth European Tour win but first in just under six years has lifted him from 1,258th to 331st in the world. The man with one of the best swings in European golf has regained his mojo and reckons he’s got lockdown to thank for that.
“Lockdown gave me the opportunity to not play golf but think about golf, if that makes sense,” he said. “It’s been about trying to get a bit of enjoyment back and I managed to find that over the last few weeks at home, playing and practising.
“In a funny way, when I left for this tournament I wasn’t 100 per cent looking forward to it as I didn’t want to jinx how I was feeling. Over the past couple of years, I had not been enjoying going to my work, which is not a good place for anybody to be.
“I came out last week feeling refreshed, though, and I think it showed. I was trying to be one-dimensional, hitting one shape all the time, in order to not find myself in positions where I am second guessing things. I made the right choices and decisions most of the week and that obviously paid off big style. Mentally, I was very good. I was able to commit to the shots I wanted to hit all week.”
Coming down the stretch at Diamond Country Club, near Vienna, he found himself thinking of his son, Archie. “I wanted to win for him as he’s seven and a bit now and can maybe appreciate what that means a bit more,” admitted Warren. “I thought, whether I win or not, he’s still going to have a smile on his face, as he always does, but I wanted to give it my all down the stretch for him. That spurred me on quite a lot.”
Fellow players, led by winning Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, pictured, Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher, were quick to offer their congratulations on social media. “Until you win, you don’t realise how many people are rooting for you,” he said of that. “It is great to have that support as it’s a special thing when friends, family and everyone else gets to enjoy a moment like that with you, even from afar. Your first win is always special, but this one is definitely massive after the way I had played the last two years. It’s great to come out the other side of that now.”
As he bids to use Sunday’s success as a platform to get back into the world’s top 100, Warren remains grateful to both Aberdeen Standard Investments and Callaway. “They have always fought my corner,” he said. “Not once in speaking to either Pete Harrison at Callaway and Martin Gilbert at ASI has there ever been any doubt about my playing ability or what I want to do in the game. Honestly, I can’t say enough about them. I’m very lucky to have great friends and family around me, but to have sponsors like I have is amazing. There’s nobody better than Martin to ask for advice. He’s not one to mess about. He’ll ask you straight up if you want to play and want to get better. Having someone like that who is massively respected in the business world in your corner is a huge thing.”
The respect is mutual. “Personally, I’m delighted for Marc,” admitted Gilbert. “Form is temporary but class is permanent, so it is great to see him back in the winner’s circle, where he belongs. I’m so pleased that my partner from previous Dunhills is back on the tour.”
Warren ended up having to carry his own clubs in Austria after caddie Ken Herring’s Covid test didn’t come through in time. The pair will now be reunited at the British Masters and Warren is excited about that prospect. “We had a great few years together first time around,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky over the years as I’ve had some great caddies, but for me Ken is the pick of the bunch. Hopefully this time around I appreciate more what I have got with him on the bag.”
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