Richie Ramsay overcame feeling the most pressure he’s ever faced in his career to hang on to a European Tour card in dramatic fashion in Spain as host Sergio Garcia won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters for a third time.
While Marc Warren was unable to retain his playing privileges and now faces a visit to the Qualifying School along with both Connor Syme and Bradley Neil, Ramsay scraped into the all-important top 116 in the Race to Dubai after the 35-year-old produced a gutsy finish in the weather-delayed tournament.
After a disappointing season, Ramsay had been 124th on the money-list heading into the final regular event of the year and was still outside the cut-off mark when the third and final round resumed on the Costa del Sol following thunderstorms on earlier days.
However, the three-time Tour winner covered the six holes he had left to play in one-under – a notable achievement on a notoriously tough course – to climb to 115th in the standings, meaning he’ll have a seat at the top table in European golf for the 11th season in a row.
“I didn’t sleep the best, but I think I came out and proved a lot to myself, arguably under the most pressure I’ve ever felt coming down the stretch,” admitted Ramsay after signing off with a three-under 68 to finish joint-11th. “But it’s a course I love which made it far easier to go out there and play.”
Knowing that he needed a big finish to avoid a trip to the Qualifying School, Ramsay birdied his opening hole of the day – the par-4 13th –before adding five pars on a tough closing stretch.
“I had some good looks at some great putts on 16 and 17 and then I rolled in a nice little tester at the end from about three feet,” he added. “A three footer under normal circumstances is very easy, but not when your job is on the line. I’m just proud of the way I played.”
Despite finding himself in a corner for the first time in his career, Ramsay had been in a relaxed frame of mind heading into this event and had his young daughter, Olivia, to thank for that.
“As long as she is happy and healthy, dad can go out and play golf,” said the Edinburgh-based Aberdonian. “I spoke to her on facetime and she’s just concerned about her scooter and planes in the sky, little things like that. She’s so happy.
“When you speak to her it makes you a bit more buoyant about things when the golf can get you down a little bit. I just try to take that on to the golf course and fortunately it kind of worked for me today.”
Ramsay joined Russell Knox (10th), Stephen Gallacher (74th), David Drysdale (107th) and Scott Jamieson (109th) in securing cards for the 2019 campaign, with Grant Forrest, Liam Johnston, David Law and Bob MacIntyre all on course to bolster that contingent as Challenge Tour graduates.
Warren, who had started the final round inside the safety zone, closed with a 73 that included two double-bogeys to finish alongside Ramsay on two-under.
Another three-time Tour winner, the Glaswegian ended up 131st in the standings, just behind compatriot Syme in 127th after he finished joint-58th after a closing 73. A disappointing rookie season for Neil on the main Tour saw him end in a share of 75th to sit 193rd on the money-list.
Others to be heading to the Qualifying School include Italian Matteo Manassero, a four-time European Tour winner, including the BMW PGA Championship in 2013, and Englishman Callum Shinkwin, who blew last year’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open on the 72nd hole at Dundonald Links.