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From Challenge Tour to British Open, Marcel Siem Plays Himself Into Contention

The 41-year-old German is hopeful a good week at Royal St. George's will help him return to the European Tour — and allow him to take a family vacation.
Marcel Siem, a five-time European Tour winner, won last week on the European Challenge Tour.

Marcel Siem, a five-time European Tour winner, won last week on the European Challenge Tour.

SANDWICH, England — A week ago, veteran Marcel Siem was in France playing — and winning — the European Challenge Tour's Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge. But as Siem was celebrating his first win on the European Tour's version of the PGA Tour's Korn Ferry Tour, he was faced with a slight dilemma: Should he take the British Open exemption offered to him by the R&A for winning in France or should he keep his nose to the grindstone and play at the next Challenge Tour event in Austria?

The ponytailed Siem, who turned 41 years old on Thursday, learned quickly though that 10 percent of any money earned this week at Royal St. George's would go toward the Challenge Tour's Road to Mallorca race, where Siem is currently in third position.

Armed with that information, Siem's decision was a no-brainer. 

“My daughter, yesterday she said, 'Daddy you have to win this week as well', these are kids.” said Siem, a five-time winner on the European Tour after his second consecutive 3-under 67 put him on the leaderboard at 6-under 134. “It's going to be huge now. Going to be a lot of crowds and the pressure will be high. I will do my best to do the same I did last week.”

Siem has been a staple on and around the European Tour since 2002 where he had won over €8.6 million. He may have been at the height of his career in March 2013 after finishing T10 at the PGA Tour's Valero Open and then winning the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II. 

The German moved to No. 48 in the Official World Golf Ranking, just under the top-50 demarcation line that provides considerable benefits, including exemptions into the majors and World Golf Championship events.

Siem decided he still needed to be better, and he changed coaches in 2014.

“I tried a bit of Dustin Johnson's swing style, over the wrist, and that screwed everything up,” said Siem, who progressively slipped down the European Tour standings and lost his card after the 2020 season. “I strained my (left) shoulder. I’m still fighting with it. I was top 50 in the world, and I talked to a few guys, my dad and others. They said if you want to be better than top 50 you have to change something, otherwise you freeze and you won’t get better. But that was the worst decision I ever made in my life. I should have stuck with what I had.”

Playing his 13th consecutive week, Siem has fully embraced the role of Challenge Tour player. He's lost most of his sponsors from his European Tour days and understands he must commit fully to his current status if he expects to return to return to the big tour.

“I’ve no idea how I’ve kept my energy up," Siem said after finishing birdie-birdie on Friday. “On Thursday, I felt quite good with a late tee time but then I only had five hours of sleep last night. The first 10 holes I felt tired, my legs were wobbly. All of a sudden, the crowd came, the pressure was coming, I got nervous and felt great. That will help over the weekend. The pressure will get me going.”

Siem’s biggest hope is not only doing well here this week, but maybe getting the chance to take a week or two off so he can vacation with his family back in Germany.

But his commitment to the Challenge Tour is undeniable.

“I feel I belong on the main tour,” Siem said. “But like Richard Bland or Gregory Havret, there are a lot of guys who have gone back to the Challenge Tour. If you don’t accept that you have lost your tour card and you still think you are a European Tour player and you should have a caddie and you should be playing for 2 million euro, you can’t compete on the Challenge Tour. There’s no chance. You are grumpy, you are upset. Once you make friends and accept where you are, that’s the only way forward. I’m glad I understood that. That’s the reason I won. You have to show the Challenge Tour respect.”

More Day 2 British Open Coverage from Morning Read:

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- One Day After Ripping His Equipment, Bryson DeChambeau Says He 'Feels Really Bad About It'
- Could a Brit Finally Win a British Open? Several Contenders Have a Shot
- Morikawa Takes Run at Open Scoring Record, Shoots 64 to Surge Into Lead
- From Challenge Tour to British Open, Marcel Siem Plays Way into Contention
- Amateur Mattias Schmid Etches Name in Open Lore With Second-Round 65
- Will Zalatoris WD From Open, One Day After Painful Shot Out of Deep Rough
- Bryson DeChambeau Rips Gear, Says Driver 'Sucks' After Uneven Opening Round