Richie Ramsay starts recovery with strong round

Richie Ramsay plays the par-3 fourth hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai yesterday. Picture: Getty

Richie Ramsay plays the par-3 fourth hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai yesterday. Picture: Getty

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RICHIE Ramsay was happy to have a clear conscience as the Aberdonian bounced back from a rules breach last weekend to find himself tracking the leaders after the first round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The 31-year-old set the clubhouse target at Jumeirah Golf Estates with a flawless five-under-par 67 before ending the day in joint-third, one behind Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry.

It was exactly the start Ramsay was looking for after a disappointing performance in last week’s Turkish Airlines Open in Belek, where the two-time European Tour winner finished 71st in a 78-man field.

His six-over-par aggregate included a two-shot penalty in the final round after he had been deemed to have taken a wrong drop when running up a double-bogey 5 at the eighth.

The ruling was made after Ramsay had gone back out to the spot along with Matteo Manassero, one of his playing partners, and one of the tournament referees. Prior to that, the pair had been involved in a long discussion in the recorder’s tent at Montgomerie Maxx Royal, with Darren Clarke, the third member in the group, also offering his opinion on what had happened.

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“Doubt appeared over where I dropped it as there were two possible places,” said Ramsay. “You can’t have any doubt so I said that I was far more comfortable taking the two-shot penalty.”

Often accused in the past of being too hard on himself, the former US Amateur champion is more relaxed these days and that was certainly evident as he showed last week has already been forgotten.

He started with three birdies, added two more on the back nine and was the only player along with McIlroy to sign an unblemished card.

“I’m really happy,” admitted Ramsay, who is making his fourth appearance in the season-ending event. “I got off to a great start with three birdies on the spin. I then played lovely in the middle to give myself lots of chances but didn’t take a few of them.

“The important thing was to stay patient and I kept on hitting good shots before taking chances at 14th and 15th then finishing off pretty solid down the stretch.

“It was a really good day. I never put myself under any pressure. It was just consistent golf and the way I like to play i.e. picking a target and hitting a good shot. It’s about trying to keep it as simple as possible and also enjoying it.”

After an injury-plagued first half of the season, Ramsay hit a purple patch as he recorded five successive top-20 finishes, including joint-second in the Dunhill Links Championship.

“Turkey wasn’t the best of weeks, but I came here still with a lot to play for as I can move up quite a bit,” he said of sitting 45th in the Race to Dubai and 102nd in the world rankings.

“I’m trying to keep a positive attitude. I played great in the middle part of the season. I know the game is there and it’s just a case of trying to stay out of my own way. Days like today are great because you are playing in a massive event against some of the best players in the world, so to shoot five-under is satisfying.”

Marc Warren, who birdied two of the last five holes, is joint-18th on one-under while Stephen Gallacher sits in a share of 30th on level-par after he partly repaired the damage of a double-bogey at the 17th with a closing birdie.

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