A scintillating birdie-eagle-birdie start set up a six-under-par 66 for Richie Ramsay in the first round of the £3 million Betfred British Masters, yet it proved difficult for the Aberdonian to deliver the upbeat account you might expect on such a splendid day’s work at Hillside.
“I hit a guy on four on the tee shot,” reported Ramsay, who began his round on the tenth, of an unfortunate incident on his 13th hole on a day when an event hosted by Tommy Fleetwood in his Southpost hometown began under a lead-grey sky and woolly hats and mitts being required to combat a distinct chill in the air.
“We shouted ‘Fore’, but I hit him on the head and he was down on the ground,” added Ramsay of his horrible experience. “I can’t remember the last time I hit someone, especially not on the head, and I’ve been hit before on the leg and I know how sore it is in the leg.
“There was blood and they took a stretcher out. We were there for about 20 minutes. It’s a bit shocking because, although you can’t do anything about it, you feel responsible because you hit the shot. I was upset. I was a bit like, ‘geez, I hope he’s going to be all right’. But, when he stood up, he started smiling and knew where he was.”
Ramsay, who was praised by the medical team for his handling of the situation, parred his way in to make the best start among ten Scots in the field, admitting that fast start had really been the key to him taking up where he’d left off when shooting the same score to finish joint 14th in the Volvo China Open on Sunday.
The three-time European Tour winner knocked his tee shot to a foot at the par-3 tenth, set up his eagle by hitting a 5-iron to seven feet at the long 11th then finished off his early burst by holing a 14-footer at the par-4 12th.
He wasn’t too disappointed when the “tough” par-3 16th claimed back one of those shots, especially as he bounced back from that by making three birdies in the next four holes. “I played steady,” he said of an effort that left him handily placed, only three shots behind the leader, Englishman Matthew Jordan. “I did the things well that you have to do, taking my opportunities and, when missing a green, chipping it close and getting up and down.”
Ramsay is one of the straightest hitters on the European Tour. It is his putting that sometimes leaves him frustrated, but not at the moment. He is using a replica putter from one of ten that he had spec’d exactly the same as the one he wielded to such good effect when winning the Omega European Masters in Switzerland in 2012.
“Ever since I went back to that, I’ve been rolling it a lot more consistent,” he said on a day when he had 26 putts – only three more than Jordan in his sensational opening salvo. “The face of the putter I had was a little softer and when I went back to the one I’m using now and hit a few putts on a mat at the house, the ball came off so much better. So, if I talk about switching putters, just give me a gentle slap on the face and say, ‘don’t do it’.”
Late in the day, Robert MacIntyre came home in 33, three under, for a 68, getting up and down from a bunker to save par at the last after making birdies at the 11th, 14th and 17th on the tougher of the two halves on this outstanding course.
“I am really pleased with that score as I am right in it,” said the 22-year-old left-hander, who has made the cut in ten out of 12 events so far in his rookie season. “I am back enjoying my golf again, having been off for too long and then found it a struggle to get back into it,” he added of having had a five-week break before suffering an early exit in the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco a fortnight ago.
“I had a different mindset today and that paid off. I made a good par save at 13, holing a 25-footer. That kept the momentum going and I then holed a 40-footer for birdie at the next. I struggled with my driving today but my short irons were very good, having done some good work with Davy Burns.”
Earlier, Scott Jamieson recovered from an opening-hole bogey to card a three-under 69. “That irritated me,” he said, smiling, as he reflected on a positive response in the shape of three birdies in the next four holes and six in total. “My iron play was good today,” he added, picking out a 7-iron to five feet at the 14th for the last of those gains as the best of the lot.
Living in Florida these days, the 35-year-old is used to warmer weather than this. “I would have taken three under when I was wrapped up on the first tee,” he said, laughing. His tone changed, though, when revealing that he is currently battling a health issue. “I’ve been sick the last two weeks and I am being treated for it,” he declared. Declining to elaborate on the exact problem, he added: “I have a couple of issues that I need to sort out.”
Liam Johnston and David Law also broke par with 71s. Referring to the inaugural Aberdeen Golf Links event, Law said of the weather: “Compared to last week, this is tropical – it was snowing going down the first at Royal Aberdeen on Friday!”
Connor Syme signed for a 72, Stephen Gallacher, Grant Forrest and David Drysdale all had 73 while Marc Warren could only manage a 78.