Marc Warren hopes to overcome injury to emulate compatriots at Kenya Open
Following a triumphant week for Scottish golf, Scotland's former World Cup winner, Marc Warren, will play through the pain barrier at this week's Barclays Kenya Open, as he bids to extend the recent run of Scottish success to the European Challenge Tour.
Hard-fought victories for compatriots Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird, at the Open de Andalucia and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, were preceded by Sandy Lyle's first win in 19 years on the European Seniors Tour.
"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," said Glaswegian Warren, who turns 30 this week. "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 glut of Scottish wins has inspired Warren to persevere through a troublesome neck injury as he attempts to claim his third Challenge Tour title at the €190,000 event, contested at the Muthaiga Golf Club on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
"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," said Warren, for whom the Kenya Open will be his first Challenge Tour event of the season. "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'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'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.
Warren topped the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2005 following two wins in his debut season. Progress to the European Tour was swift, and the Rutherglen pro adapted quickly to earn his first win en route to the 2006 Rookie of the Year award.
Loss of form after a change of coach and a period of swing reconstruction last year culminated in Warren finishing 124th in the Race to Dubai, forfeiting his European Tour status.
"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."
The 2007 Johnnie Walker champion still retains sufficient standing within the game to receive sponsor's invites, something he has capitalised on so far this season, performing consistently, with a top-20 finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic the pinnacle of the results so far.
"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!"
If Warren is to prevail in Africa this week, he will have to overcome a stiff Scottish challenge. Fellow former winners on the European Tour Scott Drummond and Andrew Coltart will be competing, as well as Team Hydro members Jamie McLeary, Chris Doak, Craig Lee, Gavin Dear and Callum Macaulay. North Gailes' Jack Doherty will also look to build on a solid start to his season.