Ewen Ferguson recovers from 'sad' start to sit close to Betfred British Masters lead
Having reckoned both his preparations earlier in the week and pre-round warm up had gone well, Ferguson felt he’d been hit like a train as he found himself four-over-par after just four holes after starting on the iconic tenth hole at the Ryder Cup venue in the Midlands. “I honestly thought I hadn’t done too much wrong,” he declared of damage caused by a double-bogey at the 11th being followed by back-to-back bogeys.
By his own admission, a start like that would have seen steam coming out of his ears earlier in his career but not now and spotting Jamie Gough, his coach, outside the ropes helped inspire the former British and Scottish Boys’ champion to cover the remaining 14 holes in seven under as he carded a 69, matching Hill’s effort in the group two ahead of him.
Back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th helped Ferguson find his stride before the turn at the Sutton Coldfield course and, having produced an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie burst from the third on the inward journey, it was no surprise that he bounded up the hill from the ninth green to sign for his satisfying scorecard.
”I wasn’t angry. I was just very sad,” he said of his mood earlier in the round. “We said, ‘what’s my game?’ It is usually fairways and greens - I’m a bit of a plodder. So it was a case of not trying to go for any more pins, which I had at the 12th when I shouldn’t have due to my head being scrambled from the double at the previous hole, and try to shoot around par, something respectable.”
Gough, the brother of former Scotland and Rangers defender Richard, helped Ferguson win twice last year in his rookie season on the DP World Tour and the South African was the main reason this particular pupil has leader Justin Rose in his sights heading into Friday’s second round as opposed to facing a fight to avoid an early journey up the M6.
“Seeing Goughy watching me helped,” said the Bearsden man. “He gets quite annoyed at me at times, asking me ‘what did you do that for?’ So, when he appeared, I thought to myself ‘he’d want me to have structure to what I was doing’ and, as a result of that, I just felt a bit more free. I’d hit two great shots into 18 and saw him as I came off the green and he said to me ‘that was better, come on, come on’. It’s great to get that support. He cares a lot, so I dug deep and fought back for our wee team, so it was good.
“The other thing in the back of my mind even though I’d got off to such a bad start was thinking that I could hole a shot and, sure enough, I did, holing a long putt from off the green for an eagle on 11.”
Though not exactly shabby - he’s recorded three top-ten finishes - Ferguson’s form this season hasn’t yet matched his fireworks from last year. But, with the Genesis Scottish Open a major debut in the 151st Open looming on the horizon, the Dubai-based player is hoping that a big performance is around the corner.
“I feel really good,” he said, smiling. “I don’t really get that down as much as I used to. I feel confident that I know when I’m good, I’m good and that’s the key. I know when I’m playing well that I will keep in there or thereabouts and I think that’s nice to know.
“If it’s not this week, it might be another week you never know, it might just be the Scottish Open. You just have to keep battling away and see what happens. I always want to win, but so many things can interfere in that respect. I love to be in the top ten on a Sunday as that’s a brilliant place to be and that will also be my goal in the Scottish Open.”
Taking up where he left off when securing a top-ten finish in the BMW International Open in Munich on Sunday, Hill was also pleased with his day’s work as he mixed four birdies with one bogey. “Yeah, it was steady,” he said of an effort watched by wife Miranda and dad Neil. “Can’t really complain about any part of the game - hit it alright, putted pretty good, hit a few good bunker shots. All in all, a good day.”
This has been a happy hunting ground for him on two previous visits. “I’ve always liked The Belfry. In 2020, it was my first top ten on tour and last time I was here (in 2021) I think I came seventh or eighth. It’s a good track and it’s the best nick I’ve played it in.”
More of the same and Hill, who was cruelly denied the chance to tee up in the 150th Open at St Andrews when he was struck by an untimely injury at the end of the 2021 campaign, will be in with a chance of achieving his goal of securing one of three spots for the Claret Jug event at Royal Liverpool up for grabs in this event.
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