A few years ago, Marcel Siem was at a crossroads. A four-time DP World Tour (formerly ‘European Tour’) winner and former top-50 golfer, the German’s career had dipped as he reached his 40s. Injuries caught up with him, and the attempt to make a drastic swing change backfired. As a result, the titles and sponsorships fell away, and he lost his card to compete on the tour.
An even bigger blow came in his personal life, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and as Siem began trying to rebuild his career during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was distraught.
He had to build himself back, on the course and off it, piece by piece, and his victory at the 2023 Hero Indian Open, in an extraordinary final day cat-and-mouse round with compatriot Yannik Paul, is proof that he has found his feet again.
Siem, whose charismatic energy – fist-pumping his way through the holes as his man-bun flailed in the wind – made him an easy crowd favourite, made a closing 68 to finish 14- under par, one stroke ahead of Paul, with Dutchman Joost Luiten another stroke behind.
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After Paul carded seven-under on the first day, he had a measured, nearly error-free tournament, even fashioning a five-stroke lead on Day Two. But Siem was able to close that gap with some brilliance off the tee, and composure on the greens, to just one stroke, setting up a showdown with Paul on Sunday.
Siem’s third-hole birdie levelled matters on Sunday, and the pair played the front nine toe to toe after both made birdies on the eighth. Siem surged ahead by two strokes before making his one and only bogey of the day on the 13th hole, and Paul took advantage instantly by getting a birdie and a share of the lead. Siem would then go ahead on the 15th hole with a birdie, and kept his lead until the 18th, before matters got interesting once again.
Paul found himself in with a birdie chance on the final hole, and Siem, vying for a first tour-level title in nine years, wobbled briefly, nearly hit his approach shot to the green in the water, and then left his follow-up putt short as well.
A three-way playoff also looked on the cards, with Luiten in with a shot for an eagle on the final hole, but each of the three players took two putts on the green, and as a result, Siem held on for an emotional win after a thrilling finale.
Holding his nerve
“That (18th) was a key moment, when you know that you have to hole a putt to win the tournament. The whole body is shaking in these kinds of moments,” he said at the news conference on Sunday. “I love Yannik, he’s a super guy and super player, but at this moment you cannot feel sorry for him. It’s a battle out there. The pressure was on, but I’m glad he missed that putt.”
“Two years ago, I wasn’t even sure if I could compete on the DP World Tour, now I’m a winner again,” he added.
Siem had been forced to cut his cloth on the lower-rung Challenge Tour a few years ago, where a title allowed him to qualify for The Open – one of golf’s four Major championships – in 2021, where he made a remarkable run, briefly being in the title conversation before falling away to finish tied-15th.
Injury issues sidelined him again, and he acknowledges he is lucky to even be competing on tour after winning his card through qualifying school – a three-stage tournament that gives DP World Tour berths to the top 25 performers.
Lessons in humility from his time on the Challenge tour, and the perspective he gained thanks to tireless work with his life coach, are two big factors for Siem’s resurgence.
“My life coach taught me that it doesn’t matter if you’re tired, sick, or afraid. You can always perform. You have the game and you need to put it in your head that you can show up, no matter what the circumstances,” he said.
His wife is now on her way to getting better every day, and as his family is embarking on a “new chapter” having relocated to Mauritius last month, silverware in tow, Siem’s career looks like it may be headed towards a new phase too.