It is always nice to roll in a 50-foot putt from off the green at the last. Even better when you are playing in front of your home fans and fellow members. No wonder, then, that Richie Ramsay wore a smile as wide as the Firth of Forth as he savoured his sensational finish to the opening round of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.
That birdie late in the evening at the 483-yard 18th gave the 36-year-old a six-under-par 65, which left him handily placed at the end of a low-scoring day in the $7 million Rolex Series event on the East Lothian coast.
The Scot sits just two shots off the lead shared by Edoardo Molinari, his fellow-Italian Nino Bertasio, American Matt Kuchar and Frenchman Romain Wattel.
“It is one of the longest putts I have holed here,” said Ramsay, who is officially attached to the host venue.
“If it had been on the green, it would have been the full length of the green. It was tracking for about five feet to go and the putter started to go up and I was worried it was a bit premature. But the members who I know had been enjoying themselves in the bar during the day were quite happy with that one.”
The Edinburgh-based Aberdonian, who was in with a chance of claiming this title in 2016 before finishing sixth behind Alex Noren at Castle Stuart, came into the event on the back of four successive missed cuts. He felt confident, though, that his game wasn’t far away from clicking, and an effort that contained seven birdies was just what the doctor ordered.
“I tried to be patient out there today,” he added. “There is obviously a lot of expectation and a lot of other factors that you think about coming into a week like this. You sometimes put too much pressure on yourself.
“It was nice to hole a few putts, especially that one at the last. I tried to stay out of the way of the outcome and not get too bogged down. It didn’t matter what had happened the last few weeks because this is another opportunity to play well.”
Ramsay spends most of his golf time when he’s not travelling the globe at this week’s host venue, having struck up a good relationship with the American owners, the Savardi family.
“I think having knowledge of the course here, especially the greens, is helpful, even though the slopes maybe didn’t play into the hands of people like myself today due to the greens being a bit softer than normal.
“I am sure if it stays dry it will firm up. Those slopes and landing areas will become more important and that’s where the knowledge I have becomes more of an advantage.
“I think probably somewhere around 65 is my best score here. But, when you play in a tournament compared to a bounce game it is a different matter, so that is probably my best round here.
“Knowing this is the Scottish Open is always there. It’s not just the Scottish Open, because the fact it’s a Rolex Series event brings a huge amount of benefits as well. We are talking about big Race to Dubai points, world ranking points and, of course, three Open spots at the end of it.”
Bob MacIntyre, one of five Scots already in next week’s Claret Jug event at Royal Portrush, was also pleased with his day’s work in the company of world No 4 Rory McIlroy and 2015 winner Rickie Fowler.
The 22-year-old left-hander from Oban opened with a confidence-boosting birdie and was going toe-to-toe with McIlroy on the front nine as they both got to four-under. He then had a shaky spell around the turn but recovered brilliantly with birdies at the 11th and 16th to open with a 68, one more than McIlroy but three better than Fowler.
“It was brilliant,” admitted MacIntyre as he reflected on a dream debut in the event. “I mean, the first tee, I’ve never experienced anything like that. I couldn’t have imagined a better start to my first Scottish Open. There were plenty of nerves. The first hole, I was shaking the whole way up it. I had a three-footer for the birdie and I was still shaking! But once that went in and I got over that hole, it was free-rolling.
“I’m going out there trying to beat these guys. That’s the only way you can think. You are playing in the same tournament as these guys, they’re competing against you.
“It’s just about going out and playing your best. I was playing great. I had been struggling but I felt like I couldn’t play much better there. I had a couple of stupid shots, maybe mis-clubbed one. But these things happen.”
McIlroy said he’d been impressed by the young Scot but already knew what he was capable of. “I thought he did great,” said the four-time major winner. “I enjoyed watching him at Hillside [where MacIntyre finished joint-second in the British Masters in May]. I told him I enjoyed watching that and he played great here, he handled himself really well and I thought he did very well today.”
After Ramsay, local man Grant Forrest was next best among a 15-strong Scottish contingent with a 67 in the morning, when heavy showers came and went. “It was a pretty frustrating day, to be honest,” he admitted.
“About as bad is it could have been on the greens, I think. I had four tap-in birdies and the longest putt I holed was about six feet, so it doesn’t really feel like four under. But it is still a decent start.”
As it was for David Drysdale and Calum Hill as they matched MacIntyre’s 68, a shot better than Marc Warren, while Russell Knox, Stephen Gallacher, Scott Jamieson and Chris Doak all had 70s.