Speaking as he prepared for this week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic after coming through a qualifier on Sunday and Monday for the tournament’s 30th staging, Warren said he only had himself to blame for a disappointing 2018 campaign which culminated in him having to make his first visit to the Qualifying School in eight years to play himself back on the European Tour.
According to the 37-year-old, he became bogged down in technique as he fell into the trap of focusing solely on how his swing looked on camera and didn’t really work on the so-called scoring areas.
“It’s not the first time I’ve done it,” Warren told The Scotsman on the driving range at Emirates Golf Club. “The mentality I have is that I can’t seem to be able to leave technique alone.”
Warren has a swing that is widely admired in the game but he admits he was seeking perfection.
“That’s probably what it is. In fact, that’s exactly what it is,” he said. “It might be that because ever since I was a kid people have said ‘your swing it great’, and I have to try and live up to that.”
In two events in South Africa last month, the three-time European Tour winner finished in the top 30. He then shot rounds of 65 and 69 at Dubai Hills earlier this week to secure one of three spots up for grabs in the Desert Classic, which starts on Thursday at Emirates Golf Club.
He is starting to see light at the end of the tunnel again after working with Oliver Morton, a performance coach who is based at Archerfield Links in East Lothian. “I’ve not been working with a swing coach for five months now. I’ve just been doing it on my own and maybe just getting an opinion here and there on certain things,” said Warren.
“The work I’m doing with Oli is more performance stuff. He’s going over all my stats and I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner, to be honest. Last year I was basically standing on the range purely working on technique. If it looked good on camera and I was happy with it, I thought ‘right I should be able to go out and play good golf and shoot a good score’.
“But, in reality, even if I was hitting it good, I wasn’t shooting good scores because I was neglecting other parts of my game. My wedge play, for instance. I wasn’t doing simple routines like hitting shots to targets. And there’s a lot more to golf than swinging it nice.”
Warren certainly discovered that when he sat down with Morton before heading out to South Africa.
“We went over a few things and it was eye-opening,” he said. “On Trackman, some of the numbers I was producing was scary. The first handicap I got for my wedge play was six! I’m glad to say I got it down quite a bit, but that gives you an idea of where it was.
“Standing over a shot of 60 yards, it was like I didn’t know what to do and for a full-time golfer that sounds ridiculous. I’ve been working hard to improve that and, in the qualifier here, I had the comfort of knowing what a 70-yard shot is, what a 90-yard shot is.”
Due to him holding a Qualifying School category, Warren had already seen his run of playing in every Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship since the inaugural staging in 2006 broken last week. He’s delighted to have kept another proud streak – this will be his 13th consecutive appearance in the Dubai event – remain intact, but, sitting well down the reserve list, he’s likely need a top 10 over the Majlis Course to get into next week’s Saudi International.
“In my position, you can’t sit down and plan a schedule,” he said. “One dream week would sort everything out and away you again. But I think it’s more a case of gradually chipping away at it as the year goes on. Get myself back where I am playing good golf again, which is where I feel at the moment, to be honest. I feel it’s in good shape. Nothing is stressing me out too much and it’s just a case of being patient and keep working on trying to improve the golf skills rather than technical issues.”