Richie Ramsay reckons he was treated to a masterclass in scoring by Matt Kuchar as the pair produced par-breaking efforts playing in the same group in the first round at Royal Birkdale.
Making his seventh Open appearance, Ramsay was delighted with his own two-under-par 68 – the first time he’d broken 70 in golf’s oldest major – as he matched an earlier effort from Martin Laird.
But the 34-year-old also couldn’t stop himself keeping an eye on Kuchar’s play as the American opened with a 65 to earn a share of the lead with compatriots Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka.
“I have known Matt since I was at the Golf Club of Georgia in 2007 and he is the kind of guy you pull for,” said Ramsay. “He is a great example of how to play the game. He has a game that suits mine, it is not overpowering.
“It is more about finesse, skill and touch around the greens. It was great for me to see someone like that competing at the top level knowing that I can try to replicate that.
“Don’t get me wrong, Rory McIlroy hitting a driver is an unbelievable sight to see, but for sheer scoring ability and the way he gets around a golf course, if you are an amateur golfer go watch Matt Kuchar.“
Laird started his first appearance in the event since 2013 with a bogey and also dropped a shot at the last, where a 15-footer horseshoed out. In between, though, the 34-year-old was delighted with his day’s work. “Everything in between was really, really good,” he said of picking up five birdies, including three in six holes on the back nine.
“I played really nicely, having two or three almost tap-in birdies. That’s really nice, especially on a course as tough as this ‘I worked really hard on my game after not playing very well at the Scottish Open last week. And today was about as good as I’ve hit the ball in a while.” He was in contention after opening with rounds of 70 and 69 at Muirfield four years ago before falling away following a nightmare 82 on the Saturday. Laird is confident, though, that there would be no repeat of that disappointment if he can get himself back in the major mix, either here or anywhere else.
“That was about as fast a course as you’ll ever play. My game is a lot more rounded now and is better suited to these tournaments. I would definitely feel better equipped in the same position. I would definitely handle that better now. I’m a few years older – and a few years wiser.”
It was a day of ups and downs for 1999 champion Paul Lawrie. He was two-under early on, dropped to one-over after a stutter around the turn before following birdies at the 15th and 17th with a closing bogey. “I am disappointed as I hit a lot of good shots,” said Lawrie. “I missed a lot of short putts – four or five under five feet – out there. Seventy was a shocking effort given the way I played. Sometimes that is the way it goes.”
David Drysdale and Russell Knox both had just one birdie as they carded 72 and 74 respectively. For Knox, it turned into another frustrating day after he had a chance to tie the early lead with a shortish birdie putt to get to one-under after eight. “Off the tee I was pretty good today but sloppy mid-irons cost three or four shots and that’s a part of my game I’m normally so good at,” he said.