Richie Ramsay tested to the limit – and passes

Richie Ramsay bogeyed the first but kept his head up to finish with a level-par 70. Photograph: Ian Rutherford
Richie Ramsay bogeyed the first but kept his head up to finish with a level-par 70. Photograph: Ian Rutherford
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It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Tiger Woods’ chip in at the 2005 Masters but it was similar and certainly helped put a smile on Richie Ramsay’s face at the end of testing day at Royal Birkdale.

For a few seconds, it looked as though the 34-year-old’s birdie putt from nine feet at the last was going to hang on the edge of the hole before toppling in as Ramsay had started to walk towards it.

It saw him finish birdie-birdie for a level-par 70, earning him a share of 11th spot heading into the final round as the Edinburgh-based Aberdonian bids to round off what has easily been his best performance so far in a major.

“When I hit the putt, I thought it was going straight in but then it stopped for three or four seconds before it trickled over,” said Ramsay after walking off with a smile as wide as the Mersey. “You need a few things like that in a round of golf.”

Four shots off the lead in fifth spot at the start, the three-time European Tour winner was delighted over the way he dug deep to retain a lofty position on the leaderboard.

“I was tested to the limit today but came through it with flying colours,” he added. “The great thing was my mental attitude was really good. It was frustrating for me out there as I missed a few putts from six or seven feet. I said to myself, ‘let’s dig in here and try to play like a champion on the back nine’.”

Thanks to that grandstand finish, he shares the honour as top British player with Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher heading into the final round, with Poulter set to be the Scot’s playing partner on the last day.

“When I get into a fight, I never back down and that was a fight to the end today,” said Ramsay, who’d earlier bounced back from a first-hole bogey caused by a “shocking putt” to birdie both the second and fourth.

His playing partner, Canadian Austin Connelly, holed from around 100 yards to eagle the second, having already birdied the first, and he went on to card a 66 to sit joint third. “The roars were crazy at the second,” said Ramsay. “I loved it out there. It was really brilliant. Crowds were possibly the best crowds I’ve ever played in front of. The atmosphere in some of the greens was second to none.” Finishing in the the top eight would secure an exemption for next year’s event at Carnoustie. “I will just go out and give a hundred per cent, pick off my shots, be committed to it,” said Ramsay of his gameplan for the final round. “I’ve been very good at staying in the process. And today, like I say, I was tested to the limit.”

Rory McIlroy was standing about 20 feet away from Ramsay as he delivered a different assessment of his day. It had started well for the 2014 champion as he birdied three of first five holes to get the leaders in his sights only to stutter around the turn. Caused mainly by a double-bogey 6 at the 10th, he had to settle for a 69 to sit alongside Ramsay on one under.

“I’ve always been good when I get off to fast starts being able to keep it going, and I didn’t today. And I needed to, that’s the disappointing thing,” said the four-time major winner. “I definitely feel like today was an opportunity lost to get right in the mix going into tomorrow.”

Trying to look on the positive side, he added: “This week has been a step in the right direction, there’s no doubt about it. I need to pick myself up, play a good round tomorrow and hope for some bad weather and hope for some guys to struggle. And we’ll see what happens.”