SCOT Marc Warren ended a six-year wait for his fourth European Tour title by winning the Austrian Open.
Warren, who last tasted victory at the 2014 Made In Denmark, came out on top as the European Tour and European Challenge Tour seasons restarted after a four-month break – due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The 39-year-old from East Kilbride started the final day at Diamond Country Club in a share of the lead with Germany’s Nicolai von Dellingshausen.
But it was an enthralling battle with Spanish youngster Sebastian Garcia-Rodriguez which he had to overcome to for his first win in six years on the European Tour.
Warren, who won the 2006 Scandinavian Masters and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles a year later, was asked what had happened to his game over the past six years?
He said: “What’s happened on the golf course in the years since then? I’ve played very poorly.
“The break has been unfortunate for everyone. But it came at a good time for me, spending some time at home and trying to get my game ready to play golf.
“It was nice to have such a long break with the family. The last few weeks I’ve been able to get some good work done and get ready to play golf.
“Came out of it pretty refreshed,” added Warren, who also partnered Colin Montgomerie in the WGC-World Cup, losing to Germany in a play-off.
“Carrying my bag this week probably helped tone it down a little – just going out and playing and seeing what happens,” he said.
“The result couldn’t have been any better.”
Playing without caddie ‘different’
WARREN admitted it had “been different” playing without a caddie – the first time since 2005, some 15 years.
Mark said: “Hopefully this is the one and only time, no matter what I say. I do enjoy the caddie’s company.
“Especially on days like yesterday. Last night I had a few nice texts from some of the caddies who are good friends.
“I didn’t say it, but I was thinking I could have done with one of them yesterday, it was brutal.
“At times like that you appreciate what a great job they do. I’m looking forward to getting a caddie on the bag again.”
Warren also admitted that he had been watching and also avoiding the leaderboards in round four.
“In my head the tournament doesn’t start until the back nine,” said the Scot who holed the winning putt at the 2001 Walker Cup against the USA at Sea Island, playing alongside Luke Donald, Richard McEvoy and Graeme McDowell – all fellow European Tour winners.
“A lot can happen on the front nine here,” said Warren. “There’s a lot of water about. It was tough. The wind was swirling.”
Regaining full status after victory No. 4 ‘huge’
MARC WARREN, who was the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in 2006 12 months after claiming the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, revealed he nearly made a miscalculation while carrying his own clubs.
“Sebastian got off to a great start, made three at the first. He started 10-under, but I thought he started 11. I had him one shot better than he was,” he said.
“When we got to the last five or six, seeing how tight it was, I was just trying to commit as much as possible to the shots.
“Around the turn I hit a couple of great shots on nine and 10 – made two birdies. Hit a really good iron shot on 11, but the wind didn’t move it and I made bogey.
“I felt like that set me back a little bit. But I holed a good birdie putt on 15 and then a good putt on 17 that was really steep downhill from about 15 feet.
“I was trying to make sure I didn’t run it past. I tried to get the pace right and fortunately it went right in the middle.
“It’s massive. Going from a few hours ago I didn’t have full status. Now to be in a winner’s category and plan the year a little bit is good.
“I just need to keep doing what I’m doing, trying to hit one shape all the time, and when I do play – try and do that and try not to mess about too much,” added Warren, whose enjoyed the most successful part of his career after teaming up with the late Bob Torrance.
Marcel Schneider set clubhouse target at 12-under
GARCIA-Rodriguez eagled the first to move to within a shot, and the pair shared the lead coming down the home straight until Marc Warren made his sixth birdie of the day on the 17th.
Germany’s Marcel Schneider made a run for the title with a three-under par 69 to hold the clubhouse lead on 12-under, as Warren stood on the 18th tee.
After Garcia-Rodriguez, who trailed by one with one to play, hit his tee shot into the water, Warren needed just a par which he duly converted from five feet.
Schneider, who shot a course record to lead last year’s Euram Bank Open after the first round, said: “I was practising hard during the ‘off-season.’
“It’s nice that it has showed up so quickly. So I’m quite happy with the result,” said the 2012 Australian Amateur Champion.
“There were a few bad shots here and there, in general I’m really happy.
“It helps to get the confidence going. I’m looking forward to next week. I like the course,” added Schneider, whose only Challenge Tour win came in Switzerland in 2018 – after he lost his European Tour in 2017.
Besseling turns virtual victories into lowest score in R4
DUTCHMAN Wil Besseling carded the joint-low round of the day, a six-under par 66, to take solo third.
Besseling won two of the six BMW Indoor Invitational – played on simulators in May and June during lockdown – at München Eichenried and the final one at Wentworth.
Wil said: “Coming back from four months off, it is really nice to play for a win and I am very pleased where my game is at.
“Yesterday was really tough with the rain and today I played good. Hit a few good shots on the front nine to give myself a lot of opportunities, which I made to get me in contention.
“And I managed to stay bogey-free which is very pleasing, especially on a Sunday playing for the win.
“I was struggling on the back nine all week. I hit it in the water on the par five 16th and managed to make par so happy with that.
“But also happy with the outcome overall as it has definitely been a good week.
“I made all my birdies on the front nine this week. Getting out in five-under really helped me, to get to 10-under par.
“And I saw the leaders didn’t run away with it, so I thought give yourself a chance and see what happens.”
Garcia-Rodriguez was joined by Scottish pair Craig Howie and Connor Syme, alongside Holland’s Darius van Driel on 10-under.
Tour stays in Austria with another dual-ranking event
THE season continues in Austria this week with another dual-ranked event.
The Euram Bank Open is being staged at GC Adamstal, and will be followed by the Betfred British Masters at Close House, the first of the new six-event UK Swing.