Having ensured there will be food on the table for wife Laura and their young son, Archie, next year, Marc Warren has set his sights on gatecrashing the European Tour’s season finale in Dubai.
The 34-year-old wiped away worries over his immediate future on the circuit by jumping 55 spots to 70th on this year’s money-list thanks to his fifth-place finish behind Englishman Tyrrell Hatton in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews on Sunday.
Warren’s first top-10 finish of the season has resulted in a sudden focus switch, with the top 60 in the Race to Dubai now his target rather than scraping into the top 110, which he’d have settled for a week ago.
“The Race to Dubai is definitely in my sights now,” said the three-time Tour winner in reference to the $8 million DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in the middle of next month.
Instead of going into the season’s final two regular events – the British Masters and the Portugal Masters – fearing that a return to the dreaded Qualifying School could be on the cards, Warren has a spring in his step again.
It’s been put there by him returning to form with a vengeance, having recovered manfully from starting with three bogeys at Kingsbarns in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship to match his excellent performance in the same event five years ago.
“Under that sort of pressure, it’s some of the best golf I’ve played,” admitted Warren, who sandwiched a 67 at Carnoustie between scores of 66 and 67 at St Andrews. “It’s definitely up there with when I was top 50 in the world, but it’s just a matter of doing it more often.”
Warren had climbed to 48th in the world rankings 18 months ago, agonisingly missing out on a Masters debut when he made it into the top 50 a week too late. He’d slipped to 218th, but is back up to 176th. The two Scots ahead of him are PGA Tour pair Russell Knox (19th) and Martin Laird (150th).
“It’s nice to know that I can do it and I can be top 50 in the world,” added Warren, who recorded his breakthrough European Tour win a decade ago by landing the Scandinavian Masters before adding the Johnnie Walker Championship the following year then, two years ago, the Made in Denmark event.
“Once you’ve been there, you just want to get back inside it, so that’s definitely the goal moving forward.”
Warren laughed when it was suggested that his form had “crashed” over the past year or so. “I didn’t quite feel that,” he insisted. However, having picked the perfect time to produce what he is capable of, the Glaswegian is delighted that he’s at least given himself a chance of extending his campaign beyond the regular season. This year’s Final Series comprises three events, with the top 78 in the Race to Dubai getting into the Turkish Airlines Open, which is first up, then 72 earning spots in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa the following week. It’s a 60-man field for the DP World Tour Championship, which Warren has played in the last four years, finishing 21st two years ago helped by a 65 in the third round.
“I hope so, yeah,” he replied to being asked if the frustrations he’s had this season can make him stronger mentally going forward. “I think golf’s like that. You have your up and downs and obviously I went into the the last three events trying to keep my playing privileges for next season. Having now managed to do that, I can now look at the things like Race to Dubai and try to finish as high up as I can for qualifying events for next year. I can now set my sights on some better things than just trying to keep my job, I suppose.”
What really pleased Warren about his performance last week was that it vindicated how good he’d felt in practice, having found something himself on the range after perhaps having become guilty of becoming too reliant on what other people had to say about his swing.
“When I get it right technically, I perform like I did last week,” he said. “But it didn’t feel good before that, the shots weren’t good, the scores weren’t good. On top of that, you get more and more frustrated. You always kind of look back. A year ago, I was top 50 in the world and it all kind of snowballs and adds up to frustration.
“But I feel as if I’ve found something now that really helped me technically. It is really pleasing mentally that I was able to get out of my own way and just went out and played. This proves the fact that when I do get that feeling for it, I can hold my own in some really good competition.”