Good but not good enough. That was Richie Ramsay’s verdict on his Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, where the Aberdonian left determined to “walk with a bit more strut” in a bid to shake off what he described as “Scottish negativity”.
Once he’s had a bit of time to properly reflect on his seventh appearance in golf’s oldest major, the 34-year-old is sure he will be reasonably content with a top-25 finish, which was secured with the help of an eagle-3 at the 17th out of a greenside bunker.
Having gone into the final round just outside the top ten and then starting with a birdie in the company of Ian Poulter, a closing 72 for a two-over-par 280 total wasn’t what Ramsay had in mind to end what had been such an encouraging effort over the first three days.
“If you’d given me this at the start of the week, I’d have taken it,” he admitted after comfortably eclipsing his best previous performance of joint-58th at Muirfield in 2013. “I’ve learned a lot. I set high goals. I felt comfortable out there. I just play a little bit too conservatively sometimes.
“The difference is you have to walk with a bit more of a strut. I’ve got to surround myself with as many positive people as possible. I think sometimes some negativity falls in there. It’s an old Scottish thing. There are a few other things that I think are major that hold us back as a nation and from progressing in general.”
Ramsay would have known that he was never going to be centre of attention in his group after finding himself heading out with fans’ favourite Poulter. When they were announced on the tee, Poulter’s reception was thunderous whereas it was simply respectful for Ramsay.
It was all “Poults, Poults, Poults” as they made their way down the first, though at the green there it was Ramsay who raised the big cheer. Admittedly helped by a fortuitous bounce off the back of a bunker, the Aberdonian was left a ten-footer for birdie and confidently rolled that in.
Having bogeyed the same hole on Saturday, it was just start Ramsay would have been looking for as he attempted to maintain the momentum from a birdie-birdie finish in the third round, but he soon had the wind taken from his sails. Just missing the fairway on the right with his drive led to a bogey at the second before the fourth cost him a shot as well after being bunkered, having birdied that the previous day.
It quickly turned into the same battle he’d been faced with on Saturday after a pulled tee shot at the sixth led to a double-bogey at the difficult sixth and a bogey at the tenth then dropped him to four-over for the day. As had been the case in the third round, he played better over the closing stretch, though a bogey at the last took a bit of gloss off that eagle, which had followed a birdie two holes earlier.
“I played poorly today. I didn’t execute my shots well,” admitted Ramsay, who finished a shot ahead of David Drysdale, the only other Scot out of seven starters to make it to the weekend, after he closed with a 70. “The week was summed up by the last hole where I played a lovely tee shot and my second shot ran off the back of the green and then I didn’t get it in the hole from six feet.
“It was good but not good enough. I’m sure when I go away and reflect on it I’ll be a bit happier about it. It was great to play close to the last few groups on the weekend of a major. It reaffirms the same things that I believe in – if you don’t have a sharp short-game and if you’re not strong mentally, that’s the difference.
“I can hit it as straight as anybody off the tee and my ball striking can be really good but my game just needs to be way sharper. It’s as simple as that. It’s very small margins and that’s what I need to improve. The fact that I’m in Scotland probably doesn’t aid that and that’s something you’ve got to continually fight against.”
Drysdale almost didn’t make it to the first tee in the final round after suffering an injury scare as he tweaked his neck warming up on the range. That being the case, the Cockburnspath man did well to sign off with a par round to secure a top-30 finish. “I did something to my neck on the range this morning after hitting a couple of 3-woods. I actually thought for three or four minutes I wouldn’t be going out. So it was all right. I just couldn’t turn through it but I managed to hobble around.”
Having tied for fourth in the Irish Open at Portstewart to secure his appearance here, having only played in the season’s major once before at Turnberry in 2009, it’s been a terrific few weeks for Drysdale, both in terms of his bank balance and, equally important, his confidence.
“I felt really comfortable this week and really enjoyed the crowds. It was an incredible atmosphere. I really should be playing a few more of these types of events and hopefully I can in future,” he added. “I’ve played around 430 events now and I’d love to win a tournament. If I were to finish my career without winning on the European Tour I’d be annoyed.
“I’ve got three weeks and then I’ll come back for the Paul Lawrie Match Play. I’m going back down here to play with my mates although that might be more drinking than golfing! But it will be nice to have a break.”