Richie Ramsay was pleased with his “lovely start” but tournament host Sergio Garcia admitted he was suffering from mental fatigue on the opening day of the Spanish Open at Valderrama.
Making his return to the competitive fray after becoming a father for the first time six weeks ago, Ramsay opened with a two-under-par 69 to end the day sitting joint-seventh, three shots behind Frenchman Alexander Levy as he set the pace.
“It’s a lovely start to a great tournament,” said Ramsay during a stint in the Sky Sports commentary box in the afternoon, having chiselled out five birdies earlier in the day. He was especially pleased with gains at the ninth and tenth as they showed “bounceback ability” after a double-bogey 6 at the eighth.
“If you are selling, I’d probably buy it,” added the three-time European Tour winner in reply to being asked if he’d settle for a five-under total on Sunday. “If the wind gets up, it could be really tricky round here.”
The rough at the venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup is on the juicy side. “I really struggled with my chipping today,” confessed Ramsay. “The rough is really thick around the green with lots of different lies. It’s the ultimate test of your short game.”
While finding it difficult being away from wife Angela and their new baby daughter, Olivia, for the first time, the Edinburgh-based player is happy to be back at the coal-face.
“Olivia is six weeks old now and she’s been fantastic. In every sense, she is going to be a game-changer for us,” he said. “But the idea was to get out here to get some practice - and some sleep - and it seems to be working at the moment.”
On a day when Craig Lee was next best among the Scots – he was sharing the lead on five-under before suffering a poor finish that left him having to settle for a 71 - Garcia had to settle for a 74 on the course where he won the last European Tour event to be staged in 2011.
“I’m a little bit mentally tired I guess, which is disappointing for me to come here to the Spanish Open and feel like I am not maybe as strong mentally as I would like to be,” said Garcia, who was three off the lead after an opening 69 in the Masters last week but shot 81 in the third round and eventually finished 34th at Augusta National.
“I just have to fight hard and get through it. I am going to have a nice break after this which I feel like I need. Scheduling-wise, with the Olympics and everything you have to find a way of getting your numbers (of tournaments) up in America and Europe earlier on in the year. Unfortunately you have to go through stretches where I would not like to play as much but I have to.”
Levy, who was second in the Perth International earlier this season, carded seven birdies and two bogeys in a five-under-par 66, which gave him a one-shot lead over Welshman Stuart Manley and English duo Andrew Johnston and James Morrison, the defending champion.
David Drysdale signed for 72, Paul Lawrie carded a 73, Marc Warren had a 75, Jamie McLeary posted a 76, Andrew McArthur opened with a 77 and Scott Jamieson struggled to a 78.