MARC Warren has broken into the world’s top 50 but has eight weeks to try to stay there in order to secure his first appearance in the US Masters.
The 33-year-old backed up his runner-up finish in the Qatar Masters by securing a share of 13th spot in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.
Having risen from 71st to 56th in the world standings on the back of the first of those efforts, the second one has now seen Warren climb another six places.
If he can stay 50th or even improve on that by the time the cut-off for the final batch of Masters invitations falls at the end of March, Warren will be heading to Augusta National for the first time.
Big points are on offer in the Malaysian Open, starting on Thursday and Warren, who is already committed to playing in Thailand as well next week, is ready to add more events to his schedule if that’s what it takes to join Stephen Gallacher, Sandy Lyle and amateur Bradley Neil in the season’s opening major.
Gallacher is edging tantalisingly close to the world’s top 30 after the defending champion’s third-place finish behind Rory McIlroy in Dubai saw him jump three spots to 31st.
He’s also playing in Malaysia and likes that European Tour stop, too, having finished runner-up to Louis Oosthuizen there in 2012.
“Malaysia is a course I play well,” said the Lothians man. “I’ve done well there most times and nearly won it a couple of times. I’m really looking forward to it.”
He’s not playing in Thailand, heading home instead for a short break before making his first trip of the year to America for the Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac Championship and Valspar Championship.
In addition to Warren and Gallacher, two other Scots also enjoyed a profitable “Gulf Swing” this time around. Paul Lawrie showed a welcome return to form by making the cut in all three events while caddie Mark Crane was on Alex Noren’s bag as the Swede picked up close to £195,000 for finishing runner-up in Dubai.
It was a welcome payday for Crane, who used to be with Richie Ramsay, as he waits for his current boss, lanky Englishman Chris Wood, to return from a broken bone in his thumb that was sustained playing tennis.
“Chris has been out since November but is returning at East London [venue for the Africa Open] in the first week of March,” said Prestwick man Crane. “So it’s nice to be back at work and even nicer to see Alex do so well, especially when you’ve got bills to pay.”
On the award front, Frenchman Gary Stal is the European Tour’s Golfer of the Month for January following his win in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship. He closed in that with a seven-under-par round of 65.