PAUL WARING will put a year of frustration behind him when he makes his return to the European Tour in Ireland next month.
The Wirral professional’s drive up the rankings was cut short by a serious wrist injury and the road to recovery has proved far longer than first expected.
But now the Bromborough player is ready to tee up again among Europe’s elite.
The Irish Open – which takes place from June 28 to July 1 at Royal Portrush GC – will provide the perfect occasion to plunge back into life as a Tour professional.
Officials are determined to prove they can stage a top-class event after the return of the tournament to the north for the first time in 60 years, with the dream of seeing the Open Championship itself being played out over the famous links.
The event has attracted a stellar field, including 10 major winners led by the home contingent of Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.
They will be joined by Americans Keegan Bradley, John Daly and Rich Beem with José María Olazábal, Paul Lawrie and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell completing the list.
And with the Irish fans turning out in force in a 100,000 sell-out crowd it should make for a memorable atmosphere.
“I am really excited about returning,” says Waring. “I have really missed competing. It is totally different to playing with your mates for a couple of quid.
“It is a case of getting my mind back on playing tournament golf, of remembering how to concentrate and not letting my mind wander during a round. You have to stay in the present, playing each shot and not getting too far ahead of yourself.”
Waring’s woes started in June last year when he was forced to pull out of the BMW PGA championship at Wentworth after just eight holes of the first round with a shooting pain in his right arm.
An extra piece of bone at the back of his right hand was diagnosed as causing the problems and was removed in an operation.
The op was deemed a success, but the recuperation proved to be a slow process.
Waring admits it will not be until he has clocked up a substantial number of holes under tournament pressure that the nagging doubts over the injury flaring up again will be vanquished.
“My wrist has been okay so far but I am still wary of it flaring up again,” he says. “I guess that for the first week or so I will be expecting a twinge and that is why I can only take things as they come, play my golf, get back to full fitness and see where that takes me rather than setting my sights on a top 20 finish or being in contention.”
He will continue on the strengthening work over the next few weeks having been given the all clear by his physio.
The plan is to follow Ireland with the French and Scottish Opens.
“I will play some links golf locally to get ready for Ireland and Scotland in particular,” he adds. “I’ll try to play a few successive rounds as well so I am as prepared for Ireland as I can be.
“I have done a lot of work with my coach on chipping and putting so hopefully my short game is in good order, and I don’t seem to have lost any length with my other shots.”
Waring has been given a medical exemption and while the mathematics involved in him retaining his playing rights for the future are complicated, he is refusing to get drawn into looking too far ahead.
“I’m not putting any pressure on myself by thinking of targets and goals for the future,” he says. “Golf is potentially a very long career and I don’t want to do anything at this stage that cuts years off at the other end of my career. It is about making sure the wrist is right, taking things week by week and getting myself attuned to life as a tournament professional again.
“I feel really fit and raring to go.”
In his time away the local contingent on the European Tour has been bolstered by the arrival of Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Baldwin from Southport, with Baldwin and Formby Hall’s Lee Slattery both making it to this month’s US Open.
“It is great to see the local lads doing so well,” says Waring. “I have been involved in majors myself and it is a great experience.
“Given that golf is such a long career I have not given up hope of playing in a US Open or Masters myself or reaching the world’s top 50.
“I think I can still hit it! And hopefully the next few weeks will show that I am over the injury.”