Golf: Desert events all the rage for Richie Ramsay

Colin Montgomerie plays a shot in a practice round at the Emirates Golf Club. Picture: Getty
Colin Montgomerie plays a shot in a practice round at the Emirates Golf Club. Picture: Getty
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HAVING been forced to pull out of last week’s Qatar Masters due to illness, Richie Ramsay will be aiming to finish the European Tour’s Middle East Swing with a flourish in the Dubai Desert ­Classic starting today.

As a result of his absence in Doha, the Aberdonian slipped to 57th in the latest world rankings, having been four places higher heading into the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship a fortnight ago.

Ramsay needs to be in the top 50 at the end of March to secure an invitation for the Masters at Augusta National, where he played in 2007 after winning the previous year’s US Amateur Championship.

His first priority, though, is to cement a spot in next month’s WGC Accenture Match-Play in Arizona and a decent finish at the Emirates Golf Club this weekend should do the trick.

Ramsay, who won the Euro­pean Masters in Switzerland last September, felt comfortable with a new driver and full set of irons in his bag in the first two events of his year.

He also believes he’s becoming a better putter thanks to a man the Scot reckons is failing to get the credit he deserves for his work in the game.

“I do some putting work with Phil Kenyon and I think he’s one of the most underrated teachers in golf,” said Ramsay. “I’ve continued that work I did with him towards the end of last season; it’s just a case of ingraining it.

“I don’t want too many technical thoughts in my brain. I’m trying to free-flow it. It’s a ­mixture of what Phil tells me and what [golf psychologist Bob] Rotella teaches. It’s putting the two together.”

Ramsay often uses Luke Donald as his inspiration – the pair aren’t among the longest-hitters in the game – and he did so once again when asked if next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles was in his sights.

“I’m not thinking about that,” he insisted. “More of a goal would be trying to get into the team for the Seve Trophy [due to be held the week after the Dunhill Links though a venue has still to be announced].

“I can see the Seve Trophy as a stepping stone [to the Ryder Cup]. You try and build up a record and a bit of a reputation, just as Luke Donald did with his Walker Cup record and playing in Seve Trophies when he was younger.

“The Accenture Match-Play is the one I want to get into first, though, and then hopefully leapfrog on to Doral [for the WGC-Cadillac Championship a fortnight later].”

Paul Lawrie, who is already in both those events through being in the top 50 in the world rankings, has headed home to Aberdeen for a well-earned rest after three weeks on the road.

For Race to Dubai leader Scott Jamieson, though, it’s crunch time in his bid to secure a spot in the match-play line-up.

Despite missing the cut in his last two events, the Glaswegian has jumped to 69th in the world and is tantalisingly close to earning a trip to Arizona in a fortnight’s time.

If he can rediscover the form that saw him start the 2013 European Tour schedule by finishing first, third and second, Jamieson will be in with a chance of making the leap into the all-important top 64 come Sunday night.

Colin Montgomerie, who provided Scotland’s sole success so far in the Dubai Desert ­Classic back in 1996, joins ­Ramsay and Jamieson in this week’s field, as do Stephen Gallacher, Marc ­Warren, David Drysdale, Peter Whiteford, Craig Lee, Chris Doak, Scott Henry and invitee Ross Bain.

The field is headed by world No 8 Lee Westwood, who is making his first appearance of the year, while others bidding to land a £265,000 top prize include Jamie Donaldson and Chris Wood, winners of the first two events on the Gulf Swing.

They had been due to be joined by Darren Clarke but the 2011 Open champion was a late withdrawal after being hurt in a minor traffic accident. Clarke’s management company, ISM, said he was feeling a bit of stiffness.

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington is looking forward to sampling one of the noisiest crowds in golf for the first time in the Waste Management Open in Phoenix. The par-3 16th is where the fans flock to and he said: “I hear they’re putting green on for the Irish fellas. Had they told me before I would have turned up earlier!”