In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Marc Warren discusses the significance of his victory at the Austrian Open following a tough couple of years on the course.
I’ve had a good few days at home seeing friends and family after my win. We’re very lucky where we live. I had a four hour drive to Prague after the tournament then my wife Laura and son Archie did an eight hour round trip to pick me up in Liverpool, and when I got back all of the neighbours had Austrian flags up and were wearing Marc Warren masks – although they made me wear one of Marc Warren the actor. My mum and dad have been staying with us too, so to be able to celebrate with them, and obviously Laura, Archie and my daughter Sophie has been very special.
The whole week in Austria was a bit surreal, and I couldn’t believe when they said it had been six years since my last win. Even that winning moment was more of a quiet satisfaction that I managed to get over the line, because normally you’d get the high from you and your caddie winning together. But with the new social distancing rules in place and no atmosphere from spectators it was different, and I was also carrying my own bag because my caddie’s Covid-19 test results didn’t come through in time. I ended up soaking it in a bit more though. I hung about at the golf club for an hour afterwards with the owner and his son, then I went for a nice socially distanced dinner with Matt Baldwin, Joost Luiten, Jordan Wrisdale and his caddie.
Carrying wasn’t too bad when the weather was good because my bag was nice and light, but Saturday was really difficult. I’d have paid good money for someone to help me out, but obviously with the rules it wasn’t possible. It was raining all day, and after months without packing I typically forgot things and had to go into the shop and buy an umbrella and rain glove. I also put my clubs on a trolley thinking it would be a good idea to keep dry and quickly discovered it was a nightmare juggling everything so I ditched it on the second tee and carried my bag after that.
I think the biggest thing was that physically it was OK but mentally it was tougher. If your caddie is there you can just chat about something else, but when you’re your own coach and caddie in one, trying to put everything into perspective and being left alone with your own thoughts is hard.
Of my four European Tour wins, I’d say this one ranks at the top. This is obviously such a big turn-around from the last couple of years, and it’s pretty tough to beat in terms of significance. It’s massive scheduling wise. Going from being unsure of where I was going to play to being in the winner’s category again is an incredible difference.
Even motivation wise this win makes me want to work even harder to get that feeling of being a winner again, because it’s pretty addictive. I feel like I’m part of the Tour again, that I deserve to be here. It was going to be tough to watch the tournaments in the UK Swing and not be a part of them, so I’m looking forward to getting to Close House for the Betfred British Masters.
It’s been a long couple of years on the golf course. I tore my rotator cuff in my right shoulder in the gym in Qatar in 2017 and I ended up going backwards from there. I’d trained really hard for three months over that winter, got physically a lot stronger, was hitting the ball a lot further and then played really well in Abu Dhabi that first week out. I felt as if everything was in a really good place and I was seeing the benefits of training hard. To get injured straight away and have that taken away was really tough, and when I came back I felt as if I’d lost all the gains I had made.
Then I ended up at Q School in 2018. I wasn’t actually expecting to get my card to be honest because I’d never really come close when I played there before. I played really solid and got the job done, but then I carried on with pretty similar form from throughout the season. I was going round in circles, trying new things with my swing, coaches, just constantly searching trying to find something. I stopped enjoying playing, travelling and even being at tournaments, which all started to weigh pretty heavily on me.
We’re extremely lucky to do what we do but at times it’s difficult, and if you’re not doing well or playing well it can be quite a lonely place, travelling and staying in hotel rooms on your own. For the last couple of years, every week felt like a slog. I didn’t enjoy going to work, which is obviously the first requirement to play well. Because of that, I wasn’t physically working hard enough or practicing enough. I really wasn’t giving myself any sort of opportunity to play or perform well.
Last year I got to the point where I was travelling on Wednesdays just to try and make the weeks as short as possible, and a part of me would be relieved to be getting home on a Friday. It’s not as if I was staying home and practicing longer either. I was literally hardly doing a thing before going to events. Everyone on Tour is just too good and you can’t get away with that these days.
I spoke to one of my best friends and my manager after missing out on a card at Q School last year, and I was just like I think I’m done, I don’t know if I want to carry on doing this any more. It was doing nobody any good being away from family all the time when I wasn’t enjoying it. I thought maybe I’d play a few Challenge Tour events this year and then just wait and play the few European Tour events I’d get in to.
The break in the season came at a really important time for me, especially from a mental standpoint, because I knew if I wanted to play well I had to start enjoying it again. To be able to re-evaluate my game and do some serious thinking about it while not having to be out there was good, and I managed to put together more of a plan and take control of a few things on my own.
I began coaching myself. I’ve worked with a few great coaches over the years, so I’ve been using some older feelings from different coaches and I feel that’s freed everything up technically which obviously frees the mind up too. I’ve started to really enjoy the process of training hard again.
Something I started when I was in South Africa was exclusively trying to hit a draw, and it’s something I’m still doing on the other side of lockdown. Hitting one shape of shot all the time, you can work back from there and figure out what you need to do technically to produce that shot and that result. It makes decision making a lot easier.
I also spent quite a lot of time at Mearns Castle Golf Club, near where I live, just having chipping contests, playing bounce games with friends and competing against each other. It’s like being a kid again, which is the best way to practice, and I started really enjoying playing the game again.
I started quietly getting excited about my game again. After such a long break, everything was feeling really good and I was hitting the ball well, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself because we weren’t sure when we were going to play again. Then when the dual ranking tournaments in Austria were announced it gave me something to work towards and added to my motivation. I felt as if everything physically and mentally ramped up a bit leading up to it.
I felt good, but the biggest thing for me was that I enjoyed being there last week, which was a really nice feeling. It was the first time in two or three years I’ve enjoyed being out there.
Everyone around me has been incredibly supportive, and to give them a little bit back by winning was very special. When you aren’t playing well, you realise who is really in your corner, and the support I’ve had has made a massive difference. I can’t thank my family and friends, and people like Pete Harrison at Callaway and Martin Gilbert and Stephanie Bruce at Aberdeen Standard Investments enough. They all still had faith and belief in my ability, and to have the hard work I’ve put in over the past few months pay off has been great. Hopefully there won’t be quite as long a wait for the next trophy.