Like all Aberdonians, Richie Ramsay is constantly ribbed by his fellow players for being reluctant to be first at the bar. But Sergio Garcia probably has some drinks heading his way if the Scot can produce a strong final-day performance in the $7 million BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Ramsay was the last man into the star-studded field for the European Tour’s flagship event, sweating it out until last Sunday before coming off the reserve list thanks to Garcia winning the KLM Open in Amsterdam and denying the final spot going to the 18 year-old Dane, Nicolai Hojgaard, instead.
“It’s crazy that I was last man in and I did think about that,” admitted Ramsay after backing up two solid opening efforts at the sun-kissed Surrey venue with a third-round 67 to sit joint-sixth on 10-under, five shots behind the joint-leaders, Spaniard Jon Rahm, pictured, and Englishman Danny Willett, in the Rolex Series event. “Is it a bit of good karma? I’ve got to play well tomorrow and, if I can have a good finish, I will need to shake Sergio’s hand and maybe buy him a couple of drinks.”
For the second day in a row, the 36-year-old started with a bogey on the West Course, where he is on track to beat his previous best finish of ninth in 2013. When you are widely regarded as one of the straight-hitters on the European Tour, though, a tree-lined test like this is right up your street, as Ramsay proved with a superb effort that contained birdies at the fifth, seventh, 12th, 14th, 15th and 17th. “It was just a brilliant day,” he said with a beaming smile. “As I was walking round, I was thinking it was great that I was playing well, but I was also remembering when I watched the World Match Play or this tournament in the sunshine and with a ton of people out there and the course playing with a little bit of firmness.
“It was a joy to be out there as the atmosphere was brilliant. Birkdale (in the 2017 Open) was the most fun I’ve had on a golf course, but in a European Tour event that today was as good as it would get. I played some great stuff. The striking at times was great. I was crunching my irons coming in. The key to the round was keeping the momentum with a couple of good up and downs where I didn’t really have to do too much work with the putter.”
It’s the first time the three-time European Tour winner has been in the top 10 heading into the last day since producing his best effort of the season when finishing fifth in the British Masters at Hillside in May. “If I do what I did today, I’ll be there and, if you can get in the mix on the back nine, the pressure turns on and I love that,” he said.
Rahm produced a brilliant par save at the last after being forced to take a penalty drop to stay alongside fellow halfway pacesetter Willett at the top of the leaderboard, matching rounds of 68 leaving them three ahead of Shubankar Sharma (66), Justin Rose (69) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (69).
Five years after coming from seven shots behind in the final round to claim this title, Rory McIlroy has nine to make up this time despite a best-of-the day 65. “I’ll go out and give it a go, try to shoot a similar score to what I did today and see where that leaves me,” said the world No 2.
On his debut, Bob MacIntyre sits just outside the top 20 on five-under after a 70. “We’re sitting handy for a good finish,” said the 23-year-old left-hander from Oban. “It’s about going out tomorrow and holing those putts that I’ve been missing. I’m going to stay aggressive every chance I get.”