Marc Warren will draw on the memories of his thrilling victory two years ago for inspiration when he tees off in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles this week.
The 28 year old Scot delighted the home crowds by beating Simon Wakefield in a play-off for the 2007 title, his second European Tour victory following his Scandinavian Masters win in 2006 en route to claiming the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award the same year.
Since triumphing at Gleneagles his best finish in a European Tour event is tied fourth – at the KLM Open in August 2008 and at The 3 Irish Open in May this year. Although he had a disappointing defence of the title 12 months ago, Warren cannot wait to return to the scene of one of the highlights of his career.
“Winning on home soil’s always special, but more so because it was the Johnnie Walker Championship,” he said. “It was the first European Tour event I played as an amateur – I actually missed the US Amateur Championship to play at Gleneagles instead.
“The tournament very kindly gave me an invite to play for the next three years, when I was on the Challenge Tour, which was very good of them. So it’s always been a special event for me, and it was fantastic to repay them by becoming the first Scottish winner of the event.
“The whole crowd was really supportive of me, particularly in the play-off. It was great to soak up the atmosphere, and it really spurred me on. It was a great feeling, definitely one of the best days of my life.
“We had a great celebration back at my mum and dad’s place afterwards. They came along to watch me along with a few friends, which made it even more special. So I’m really looking forward to going back there.”
This will be the 11th edition of the event at Gleneagles and Warren is not the only one to hold the course in high regard, with its spectacular scenery among the rolling Perthshire hills and valleys.
He added: “I was talking to my playing partners in the KLM Open last week (Jean-François Lucquin and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet), and they were both saying how much they enjoy playing Gleneagles. That’s high praise, considering the quality of courses we play out here on Tour.
“I’ve already had loads of requests for tickets, so hopefully I can keep everyone happy and I’ll have some great support again. It should be a top week.”
Grégory Havret of France will defend the title on the PGA Centenary Course, joining past winners Emanuele Canonica of Italy and Miles Tunnicliff of England. Spaniard José Maria Olazábal, Paul McGinley, David Howell and European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie will also take their places in a competitive field battling for the winner’s cheque of £233,330 from an overall prize fund of £1,400,000.
Montgomerie, a long-time supporter of the tournament since its inception in 1999, is once again the Championship Chairman. The 46 year old has twice finished fourth in the event, in 2003 and 2006, and said: “The Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles is one of my favourite events in the year, not least because it allows me to play here near my new home in Perthshire.
“The galleries here are very special and probably the most knowledgeable in the world. As players, we always agree that it’s great to have that support.”
Graeme Marchbank, Head of Corporate Sponsorship Diageo, said: “We are delighted to once again have Colin Montgomerie as our Championship Chairman. His commitment to the event and presence each year definitely adds to the stature of the tournament.
“As we reflect on the first ten years, we are extremely proud of our list of Champions, many of whom return year after year hoping to lift the trophy once again. We know the players and their families love coming to Gleneagles and enjoy the welcome they get from the Scottish crowds.”
As part of the ongoing development of the course ahead of the tournament and in the build-up to The 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, changes have been made to the 12th hole.
“The hole’s defence is the green; its armoury includes a small tree to the left, bunkers on both sides and the pronounced ridge through the middle,” explained David Williams, European Tour Tournament Director. “It is now ultimately a tougher challenge, placing a premium on accuracy.”