David Drysdale is “wintering” in South Africa again this year. It was already going to be a busman’s holiday and now it could start earlier than scheduled. The Borders man, after all, can extend his season if he maintains his promising start to the £5.7 million Turkish Airlines Open.
Drysdale’s four-under-par 67 nestled him into the top 10 after the opening round in Belek. If he can stay there come Sunday night, he’ll be moving on to Sun City next week for the second event in the European Tour’s money-spinning Final Series, the Nedbank Challenge.
“I think a top 10 (it would earn him a minimum of £115,000) would do me to get into that,” said Drysdale after a flawless opening effort on the Regnum Carya course left him sitting joint seventh, three shots behind George Coetzee after the South African produced a dazzling effort on a dazzling day on the Mediterranean coast to lead by a shot from Dane Thor-bjorn Olsen. “That’s certainly the plan. It’s an end-of-season bonus to be here and, if I can extend my season by another week, then great.”
Sitting 91st in the Race to Dubai at the end of the European Tour’s regular season following the Portugal Masters, Drysdale was third reserve for this event. Under normal circumstances, that might not have got him here. The spate of withdrawals led by Rory McIlroy in the wake of a recent rocket attack and car explosion in the Antalya area, however, meant he ended up getting into the 78-man field quite comfortably.
“When I was third reserve after Portugal, I actually thought that I was going to have a great shout, though maybe as first reserve,” said the 41-year-old, who lives near Cockburnspath and is attached to Eyemouth Golf Club. “But then, when the car explosion happened last week, I really thought I had a chance because one or two mates that were out in China (for the WGC event last week) were saying guys were set to pull out. But, of course, it wasn’t until last Thursday night that we actually knew the tournament was going ahead, so it was Friday morning when I knew for definite that I’d be playing here.”
Getting a chance is one thing, taking it is another. Drysdale, though, is a much better player than some people probably think. You don’t hold a European Tour card for nine years in a row, as he has now done, without having a solid all-round game. On a course where there’s plenty of water, it was the reason he was one of the few – even Coetzee had a bogey on a card containing eight birdies – to produce a flawless first-day effort.
“It’s a good score,” said Drysdale, having made the last of four birdies by hitting a gap wedge stiff at the ninth – his 17th. “It was a bit up and down, but I managed to save pars when I made a mistake and gave myself chances as well. My misses were in the right places. I drove the ball reasonably and, if I missed a fairway, it was just a yard into the rough. It’s great to get off to a start like this and hopefully that will give me confidence for the next three days.”
Marc Warren was also on course for a blemish-free start until he bogeyed the 18th after finding water from the tee. It left him having to settle for a 68, but that still represented a good day’s work for the on-form 33-year-old. “I played OK apart from the fact I didn’t drive it that well,” he said. “I hit one miles up at the seventh, but after that I never really hit a good one with my driver, so I’m off to work on it.”
Playing together, Paul Lawrie and Richie Ramsay signed for 69 and 71 respectively. “It’s a decent start,” said Lawrie, who is here on a sponsor’s invitation. “I gave away a couple of shots on the greens, which was disappointing, but I played quite nicely today.”
Ramsay felt he had, too, and couldn’t believe that he’d not joined his fellow Aberdonian in breaking par. He would have if a four-foot birdie putt at the 18th hadn’t done a full horse-shoe around the hole.
“That round was the last month for me in a nutshell and the last hole summed up my day,” said Ramsay. “I’ve shot level par but, in my head, I’m thinking it was a lot better than that. It actually gets worse the more I think about the round.”