THE qualifying race for next year’s Ryder Cup may not start until early next month, but there’s no doubt that Darren Clarke, the European captain, will be keeping an eye on the closing stage of the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play this weekend.
As was the case with an event like the Seve Trophy, this new tournament provides the perfect chance for European players to show what they are made of in a head-to-head format rather than having a card and pencil in their hand. It’s a different challenge altogether from the week-to-week stroke-play events and among those handling it well so far at Murcar Links are Marc Warren and Richie Ramsay, having both made it into the last 16 in the £710,000 event along with a third Scot, Chris Doak.
I made a few putts when I needed to so I was very pleased with the day’s workRichie Ramsay
Following Englishman James Morrison’s second-round exit at the hands of Swede Johan Carlsson – he now faces compatriot Robert Karlsson – Warren, the second seed, is technically the new favourite for the title. On the strength of the golf he’s played over the past two days, no-one could argue about that, either.
“I’ve felt really comfortable with my golf swing and that’s pleasing when you are having to hit a lot of different shots in these conditions,” said Warren, referring to the fact his 3&2 win over Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti yesterday had been crafted in both wind and rain on the outskirts of Aberdeen. As had been the case with Englishman Richard Bland on the opening day, the 32-year-old had to be close to his best and was particularly pleased to have rolled in 12-foot putts for wins at both the 15th and 16th holes.
“Fabrizio was another tough opponent, but I wasn’t giving anything away tee-to-green out there,” said Warren, who now meets Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who suffered a dip in form after his 2012 Ryder Cup appearance but is beginning to fire on all cylinders again. “That should be a really good match,” acknowledged the Scot. “He’s got a really good match-play record, winning a match-play tournament [the Volvo World Match Play at Finca Cortesin in Spain three years ago]. He’s got Ryder Cup experience as well, so it will be a really tough game. But, if I can keep that standard of play from tee-to-green and maybe hole one or two more putts, then hopefully I can give him a good match.”
In a clash between two former US Amateur champions, Ramsay was understandably delighted with his 4&3 win over Italian Edoardo Molinari. “Edoardo is a class player and he’s done very well in Scotland,” said the Aberdonian of his opponent winning both the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in 2010 to secure a Ryder Cup appearance. “When he gets going with the putter, he’s probably one of the best in the world.”
Already two up, Ramsay hit an 8-iron to 15 feet to win the fourth with an eagle and never really looked back. “I played really steady golf,” said the 32-year-old, who has an added incentive to make that Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where he recorded his US Amateur Championship win in 2006. “I made a few putts when I needed to as well so I was very pleased with the day’s work.”
He now faces Morten Orum Madsen, a dangerous Dane, and is hoping the wind continues to blow from the south, having switched round there yesterday for the first time this week. “I like the way the wind is at the moment,” said the course-record holder. “This is the prevailing wind here and I know how to play it in this wind from being here before.”
Ramsay said he intended to prepare for this morning’s test by putting his feet up in front of the television and getting his daily fix of laughter from one of the characters in Suits, an American legal drama series. “I’ll probably watch a little bit of Harvey Specter to get the attitude right for tomorrow,” he revealed. “One of my good friends always says that if you can laugh out loud once a day, it’s good medicine for you. And when I watch Suits, I definitely laugh. It’s good fun and puts you in the right mood.”
While host Lawrie’s exit at the hands of Doak was undoubtedly a blow to the event heading into the weekend, the last 16 still includes an exciting mix of seasoned winners and up-and-coming players. Karlsson, for instance, is a former European No 1 while Englishman Chris Wood, who has Prestwick man Mark Crane on his bag, is shaping up to become a challenger for that title one day.