Marc Warren will play through the pain barrier at this week’s Barclays Kenya Open, where he is bidding to build on Scotland’s recent run of golfing success.
Following victories last weekend for his compatriots Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird on The European and US PGA Tours respectively, Warren had hoped to keep the Saltire flying high by claiming his third Challenge Tour title at the €190,000 event, held at the magnificent Muthaiga Golf Club on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
But a sore neck, which has severely restricted his ability to practise, may have hindered his chances.
Warren, who won the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2005 before claiming two European Tour titles, said: “I’d just come out the shower on Monday morning, and managed to injure two muscles in the back of my neck when I was drying my hair. I couldn’t move it for most of the day, but I’ve managed to hit a few balls on the range over the past couple of days. I wasn’t able to go full pelt though, so I just concentrated on my chipping and putting, which was maybe no bad thing.
“I’m not at 100 per cent because I can still feel some pain when I swing, so it’s probably something I’ll have to look at when I get back. I first felt a twinge in South Africa at the start of the year, and I struggled on but it didn’t feel right. Like here, it was a long way to go so I didn’t want to withdraw, but I don’t want to do myself any lasting damage so I may have to get it checked out.
“I’ll not be using it as an excuse this week though, as I’m still feeling fit enough to compete out here. I’ve obviously got quite a good record on the Challenge Tour and have very fond memories of my win in 2005, and hopefully I can go well here this week. Obviously in an ideal world I wouldn’t have lost my card and would still be playing on the main Tour, but now that I’m out here I’m determined to make the most of it because it’s a big tournament this week. Barclays and the organisers have put a lot of work into it, and I would never go into an event half-hearted anyway. I’m here to win.”
If Warren were indeed to triumph this week, it would complete a remarkable hat-trick of titles across three different Tours for Scottish golfers, following Lawrie’s victory at the Open de Andalucía de Golf by Turkish Airlines and Laird’s win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard in the States.
Warren said: “There’s been a bit of criticism in recent times about the state of Scottish golf, but I’m sure the two great wins over the weekend will have answered some of those critics. I’m not sure Scotland’s ever had two victories on the same day on either side of the Atlantic, so it’s great for Scottish golf and hopefully I can keep the run going this week.”
The Glasgow resident, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Friday, last tasted victory at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in November 2007, since when he has rather lost his way, culminating in a 124th place finish in last year’s Race to Dubai.
Warren concedes there were mitigating factors for his fall from grace last term, but is determined to make amends and try to recapture some of the form which saw him crowned the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in 2006.
“I changed my coach just before the French Open, which is the start of a run of big events,” he said. “So the timing wasn’t ideal from that perspective, and there was about a two-month stretch where I really struggled with my swing. After that I got disqualified in Ireland, where I actually signed for the right score overall, but got my scores mixed up on two holes. So that was really frustrating, and may have ended up costing me quite a lot of money.
“But there’s no point making any excuses, and I made the changes for a reason – because I want to become a better golfer. So whilst I may have made one step back, hopefully I’ll be making two forward pretty soon. I’m pleased with the way I’ve started this season, so I want to carry that form into this week if I can.
“Hopefully now that I’ve made a pretty solid start to the season, I can get a few invites on the main Tour and play a pretty full schedule. But if not, I’ll be more than happy to play on the Challenge Tour – I’m certainly not going to be sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. The goal is just to get back onto the main Tour next season, and I really don’t mind how I go about achieving that goal – just as long as I do!”