Richie Ramsay is only four shots behind leader Jordan Spieth at the halfway stage in the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale – just five years after a missed cut in the same event left him in despair.
Bidding to become the first Scot to get his hands on the Claret Jug since fellow Aberdonian Paul Lawrie in 1999, the 34-year-old backed up an opening 68 with an equally-solid 70 in windy conditions at the Southport venue to sit on two-under-par.
Having tied for second in the Irish Open at Portstewart a fortnight ago, Ramsay is producing some of the best golf of his career as he heads into the weekend with world No 3 Spieth in his sights in the season’s third major.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” said the Edinburgh-based player of having manoeuvred himself into contention on the Lancashire coast.
“As you grow up, you dream about having a ten-foot putt to win The Open and, fortunately, I’m in a position to compete for it, which is something I probably haven’t done over the last few years.”
Ramsay’s mood after two rounds here was a stark contrast to how he felt at the same stage after missing the cut just up the Lancashire coast at Royal Lytham in 2012, a disappointment that came hot on the heels of a similar early exit from the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart the previous weekend.
“This is the lowest point of my professional life,” he groaned at the time. “The Scottish Open and The Open are the two biggest weeks of the year and they’ve easily been my worst. I’m going to have to sit down and work out exactly what I’m doing because it’s not even close to satisfactory.
“I’m going to have to come back somehow and I’ll just sit down and figure it out. It’s not a time for knee-jerk reactions, but there’s going to be some serious changes. To keep playing like this would drive me insane. Everybody says there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but I don’t see any right now.”
Reminded of that, having definitely started to see some light again, he said: “That was a long drive. I remember that! I drove from Lytham to Edinburgh in four hours, upset and frustrated.
“But I’ve ticked one of the boxes now, to mix it with the top guys in the world over two days in a major. It’s something I’m proud of. I’ve worked hard and it’s taken years. Now I need to continue to work hard. It would be great to be in contention on Sunday.”
Part of the reason Ramsay, who was sitting 341st in the world rankings a fortnight ago but is up to 169th and in with a golden chance to break back into the world’s top 100, now finds himself in contention in the game’s oldest major is that he is no longer obsessed with golf since first getting married and, more recently, the arrival of his daughter, Olivia, 16 months ago.
As recently as the Scottish Open last weekend, she soon helped the three-time European Tour winner get over a disappointing final round as he ended up in a tie for 35th behind Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello at Dundonald Links.
“It has calmed me down a bit. I definitely don’t take things for granted as much,” said Ramsay of fatherhood. “I’m a little bit more patient. Olivia teaches me that. I think it settles you down as a person. It takes your mind off golf.
“I was very one-dimensional when I was young. If golf wasn’t going well, life wasn’t going well. Now, when I come around the corner, she’s there. Last Sunday, I had a bad finish. I walked into the players’ lounge and Olivia clocked me from about 20 yards.
“The hands went up and the smile went on her face. That’s just magic. It cheers you up. When she smiles, I smile.
“It’s great having her here this week – and giving me a good dose of perspective.”