The Open 2021: Marcel Siem thriving on return to the big time

It’s golf at its best. A week after playing in front of basically no one at all on the Challenge Tour, German Marcel Siem is in the hunt at the halfway stage in the battle to become Open champion with 32,000 fans watching on.

Marcel Siem celebrates his putt on the 18th hole after finishing the second round with a birdie in the 149th Open at Royal St George’s. Picture: Christopher Lee/Getty Images.
Marcel Siem celebrates his putt on the 18th hole after finishing the second round with a birdie in the 149th Open at Royal St George’s. Picture: Christopher Lee/Getty Images.

Siem is a well-kent face and not just for his man bun, having won four times on the European Tour, most recently in the 2014 BMW Masters in his home country, before losing his card at the end of the 2018 season.

He considered packing it in after losing his sponsors as he found himself on the second-tier circuit, but the past few days have vindicated the 41-year-old’s decision to get his head down and give it everything in a bid to return to golf’s top table.

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Last Sunday, Siem won the Le Vaudreuil Challenge in France, jumping to third in the Challenge Tour rankings and also securing one of the final spots in the field for this week’s Claret Jug joust.

Despite this being the 14th week in a row that he’s played competitively, Siem has opened with back-to-back 67s at Royal St George’s to sit handily-placed at the halfway stage.

“I’ve no idea how I’ve kept my energy up,” he admitted after finishing birdie-birdie in the second circuit. “Monday, Tuesday, I felt horrendous. On Thursday, I felt quite good with a late tee time but then I only had five hours of sleep last night.

“The first 10 holes I felt tired, my legs were wobbly. All of a sudden the crowd came, the pressure was coming, I got nervous and felt great. That will help over the weekend.”

Richard Bland found himself back on the Challenge Tour before he won for the first time on the European Tour at the 478th attempt in the British Masters at The Belfry in May.

“I have to understand where I am,” said Siem, who has his old caddie, Guy Tilston, on the bag this week after borrowing him from Richie Ramsay for his return to the big time, having last played in a major in 2015.

“I can’t whinge all the time about wanting to be on the European Tour. I have to accept where I am.

“I feel I belong on the main tour. But, like Richard Bland or Gregory Havret, there are a lot of guys who have gone back to the Challenge Tour.

“If you don’t accept that you have lost your tour card and you still think you are a European Tour player and you should have a caddie and you should be playing for 2 million euro, you can’t compete on the Challenge Tour.

“There’s no chance. You are grumpy, you are upset. Once you make friends and accept where you are, that’s the only way forward.

“I’m glad I understood that. That’s the reason I won. You have to show the Challenge Tour respect.”

Siem’s struggles started when he changed coaches in 2014. “I tried a bit of Dustin Johnson style over the wrist and that screwed everything up. I strained my shoulder. I’m still fighting with it,” he said.

“I was top 50 in the world…. that was the worst decision I ever made in my life.”

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