The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And for Alvaro Quiros, winner of six European Tour titles including several big events in the Middle East, coming to terms with losing his playing rights and finding himself back on the Challenge Tour must have been difficult.
However, as the Spaniard prepares to tee it up at the Turkish Airlines Challenge, he is sanguine about why he has had to drop down to the tour he graduated from in 2006.
“My game wasn’t good enough last year,” he admitted. “I don’t want to sound rude, but unfortunately I’ve had to come back to the Challenge Tour – and I only say ‘unfortunately’ because the last ten seasons I’ve been lucky enough to play on the European Tour.
“My plan is to play Challenge Tour the whole season. I may get some invites on to the European Tour but most of the time I will be playing here and hoping to find the game to get back up onto the European Tour again.”
With 11 years now passed since victory in the Morson International Pro-am Challenge led to 18th place in the Rankings and a European Tour card, the 34 year old concedes that the Challenge Tour is almost unrecognisable from when he was last here.
“What I really remember about being on the Challenge Tour in 2006 was just very nice times,” he said. “That year we were quite a few Spaniards and that was fun for us – some of us got cards, some of us didn’t, but we were all in a big group and that makes your life easier on tour.
The Challenge Tour has changed a lot - it has become a lot more professional
“Now I barely know anyone! But in time I’m sure I will be able to make some connections, with the Spanish guys and with everyone else.
“I have realised that the Challenge Tour has changed a lot, with all this stuff around. I don’t think we even had yardage books ten years ago, whereas now it’s exactly the same as the European Tour.
“Another thing is caddies – so many players have caddies now, whereas in 2006 almost nobody did, so I get the impression that it has become a lot more professional as a tour.
“In terms of results and standard, I don’t know yet. I’m already 11 years older and in a different stage of my life and my game but I will see after this week what the level of the average Challenge Tour player is.”
The Challenge Tour is not the only thing that has changed in that time. As well as becoming one of European golf’s most recognisable figures, famed for his prodigious power off the tee and his ruthless instinct in closing out tournaments, Quiros has recently embraced the role of family man.
Having married Maria in 2013, the couple’s first child, Alvaro, arrived last year – with a second son now set to follow in the next six weeks.
We are now expecting a second boy within a year - it's called 'Irish Twins' if I'm not wrong!
“We had my first child, Alvaro, on June 8 last year and now we are expecting the second boy on June 5,” he said. “It’s called ‘Irish Twins’ if I’m not wrong, when they have less than a year between them! It’s going to be a very busy time.
“For me it’s been a very special situation for the last few months, because I have never been at home for so long during the last 13 years of being a professional golfer, so it’s a new situation for me.
“It’s even newer to have a child, and it has been a little bit tricky to manage both that and try to maintain and improve the level of my game, but I would say it will help once I’m on the tour and playing regularly.
“To have my family in proper health and having that stability helps, and I would like to be with them, but at the same time I have already been with them a lot at the beginning of this year, which as I said has been new for us, and the travel on the Challenge Tour is just in Europe a lot, so I can always come back after tournaments.”
Will this stability off the course lead to improved things on it? If not, it will not be for any lack of effort on Quiros’ part, though it is as much a mental improvement as a technical one that he recognises will be key to rediscovering his best form.
“I’ve been training very hard,” he said. “The last five years have been tough, because in 2012 I tried to change a couple of things in my technique to improve, and suddenly I started to go backwards, the opposite.
Increasing the confidence again is the toughest thing when you've been losing the faith for such a long time
“That’s a very difficult thing to process, to be honest, and last year I was keeping myself working so hard, harder than ever, and I lost my European Tour card for the first time in my career.
“I changed my coach after Q-School in November so it looks like I’m getting a little bit better, though I don’t have everything in position yet. But now that I’m closer to playing better golf, the important thing is to increase the confidence.
“That’s the toughest thing, I would say. When you have been for such a long time losing confidence, losing the faith, now to recover that without playing great, but playing better, is a process.
“This week is going to be nice if I can hopefully make the cut and work for four days, so that’s the state of my golf so far – I think it’s good, but it’s a little bit of a guess how I will behave mentally.
“We don’t have to lie, the quality on the Challenge Tour is supposed to be of a lower level to the European Tour, but if I am here it is because my quality has been reduced too.
“I still consider myself capable of playing good golf and hopefully I can support that with good results and a proper mentality – I think that’s going to be the key, to have the golf good but the mentality perfect.
“When I arrived on the Challenge Tour in 2006, I was so young I was almost blind, I hadn’t experienced everything I have now, both good and bad, so I think it’s a question of balancing everything and doing my best with what I have right now.
“If that is going to be good enough to do well on the Challenge Tour this year, I don’t know. But right now, I have no expectations, I can only keep up my own standards of how I want to play and to behave.”
Experience may count for a lot, but past glories – two wins in Dubai, say, including the DUBAI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP presented by DP World in 2011, or his home event the Open de España one year earlier – hold no interest for Quiros now.
He concedes it may offer an edge should he force his way into contention for another title, but he also acknowledges the benefit of the fearlessness of youth he is likely to encounter and have to overcome at this stage in his career.
I don't care about how I have played in the past - everybody has 14 clubs and that's all that matters
“I respect the players who play well,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t respect them, but I don’t care about the players who have played well in the past, myself included – it’s all about this moment, this week.
“I appreciate if others respect what I might have done but I don’t count on that to be the difference. Everybody has 14 clubs and that’s the only thing that matters, and the first tee and the scores.
“The only thing to say is that maybe I have the experience that some of them don’t have, so hopefully I can use that to my advantage, to play better or shoot lower, or if I’m in contention on a Sunday afternoon – they have in their favour that they are younger, I have in my favour that I have that experience, so we will see.”
And finally, thoughts turn to the here and now, and this week at Gloria Golf Club in Belek. The New Course once again plays host, and Quiros could not be more positive with the impression Turkey has left on him so far.
“This week nobody can complain about anything,” he said. “We are being so well looked after, the golf course is in very good condition – in 2006 we never had it this good, for sure! I have to say I am very happy to be here.
“It’s a narrow, tree-lined golf course, which is something I really like because it’s demanding from the tee. The greens are in good shape and I think it could be a good golf course for me.
“A lot of players are going to have chances to play good golf here because it is fair, the greens are a nice size, you have four par fives, two or three of them are reachable, and a lot of very good par fours which will demand accuracy from the second shots.
“We will see how it goes, and 18 is especially a good hole. There is water, but you have the chance to make an eagle three, and some players will have to go for it on Sunday – it’s going to be fun!”