Playing what he described as “caveman golf”, Richie Ramsay finished birdie-birdie in the second round to sit just one shot off the lead at the halfway stage in the £3 million Betfred British Masters at Hillside, where seven Scots out of ten starters have made it through to the weekend.
Out in one of the last groups on a day when play was delayed by more than an hour due to the threat of electrical storms in the Southport area, Ramsay backed up his opening 66 with a 67 for an 11-under-par total to have the leader, Englishman Matt Wallace, in his sights heading into the final 36 holes.
“I played some lovely stuff and I’m in a very good position,” said Ramsay, who was equally pleased to see compatriots Robert MacIntyre, Liam Johnston, Scott Jamieson, Connor Syme, Grant Forrest and David Law join him in making the cut. “There are plenty of Saltires on the scoreboard, which is good news for the weekend,” he added.
Ramsay, who is chasing a fourth European Tour victory, holed a “tricky” five-footer to save par at the 16th before rolling in one from a similar distance at the next for a birdie then signing off in style by converting one from 25 feet at the last as he finished around 8pm. “That was a lovely bonus,” he said of the latter.
The 35-year-old Aberdonian reckons his new caddie, Guy Tilston, is doing a great job of helping him keep things simple out on the course. “It’s caveman golf, like Dustin Johnson,” said Ramsay. “He just picks a target and says ‘we’ll hit it on the line of that tree’.
“I had a tendency to get over-complicated about what I was going to hit and how I hit it. Guy’s been great for that, he’s picked up my yardages very quickly and he’s always on at me to keep it simple. I’m thinking about multiple options and he’ll say, ‘it’s just a soft 9-iron, commit to it’. And he’s been right most of the time.”
Earlier, MacIntyre carded an adventurous 69 to sit on seven-under, leaving him lying just outside the top ten. “Oh, stress,” declared the 22-year-old left-hander after signing for a card that contained eight birdies but also two double-bogeys and a bogey. After starting on the tenth, his opening nine holes contained a solitary par. “It’s as though he’s playing one hole then I’m playing the next,” quipped his manager, Iain Stoddart, as two of those birdies were followed by 6s at par-4s.
Shortly after the second of those setbacks, play was suspended. “That probably came at a good time for me, to be honest,” admitted MacIntyre. “My good was great and my bad was horrific, it was as simple as that. I was struggling and I felt my head was going a bit, but I managed to hang in and get over the line.”
After the resumption, he made three birdies and negotiated his back nine without any mistakes. In doing so, he is sitting five shots off the pace heading into the weekend, which will start with an 18,000 sell-out at an event being hosted by Tommy Fleetwood in his home town. “The way I finished was the way I wanted,” said MacIntyre, smiling, as is invariably the case.
Johnston lit up his second round with an eagle-3 at the 11th. “That was definitely the highlight of my round and also my shot of the week so far,” said the 26-year-old of hitting a 5-iron from 217 yards to three feet. He then signed off for the day by rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt for a 68 to sit on five-under.
A visit to Southerness, where he played as a junior and appreciates the club still giving him courtesy of the course as a professional on Sunday has helped the Dumfries man feel at home this week. “It got me tuned-in to playing links golf,” said Johnston. “That has been key to my good start and hopefully it will continue.”
After bogey-free opening rounds of 65 and 67, Wallace is on course to land a fifth European Tour triumph in his first outing since linking up with Steve McGregor, a fitness guru who helped both Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood get to world No 1.
“I’ve got a brilliant team with the inclusion of Steve now and his history speaks for itself,” said Wallace, who leads by a shot from a group that also includes Swede Niklas Lemke after he made eight birdies in a row – one short of the tour record. ”If he can do some of that magic to me, then hopefully we can get to that position or close enough.”