After two Scottish successes already on the European Tour in 2019, it’s perhaps being a tad greedy to think a third tartan triumph might be on the cards before summer has even arrived. It is a possibility, though, as Richie Ramsay and Bob MacIntyre are both in the mix heading into the final round of the £3 million Betfred British Masters at Hillside.
After a day when an 18,000 sell-out crowd turned the Southport venue into what felt like a mini-Open Championship on a sun-kissed day on the Lancashire coast, Ramsay sits third, just two shots behind the joint-leaders, Englishman Matt Wallace and Swede Marcus Kinhult, with MacIntyre one back along with the tournament host, Tommy Fleetwood.
“I loved it so much out there,” said Ramsay after signing for 71 to sit on 12-under-par. “First and foremost, it’s a great course and then you have an 18,000 sell-out. At some places we play, not that many people come out and watch, but this feels like a big tournament. It was great.”
Chasing a fourth European Tour triumph but first in more than four years, the 35-year-old Aberdonian was out in one-under, helped by rolling in a 40-foot birdie putt at the sixth, before suffering a setback at the par-3 tenth. “My tee shot caught in the wind, hit a tree and ended up in a so-so lie,” he said of running up a double-bogey. “But I finished really well,” he added of picking up three birdies in the last eight holes, one of which was almost a hole-in-one at the 16th, where his 6-iron tee shot ran over the top of the hole.
A little fist pump which followed a four-feet par save at the last showed what that meant to Ramsay. “It was big for momentum,” he said. “My goal for tomorrow is more of the same. I enjoy the pressure of being in the mix on a back nine and, if I can set up that chance, I will be playing to win.”
MacIntyre, who is bidding to land a maiden victory on the circuit in his rookie season, will have Fleetwood for company in the final round. It’s a repeat of the last day in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship earlier in the year, but this will be a lot different. “It could be loud,” said MacIntyre of playing with the host on his home patch. “But I’ve loved it so far this week, playing in front of the biggest crowds of my career, and tomorrow will be a huge learning curve for both me and my caddie [Greg Milne] as we are both still learning the ropes out here.”
A similar start to his third round would do nicely for the 22-year-old left-hander from Oban, having picked up four shots in the first six holes en route to a 68. He’s made 20 birdies in total so far this week. “I played well and, overall, it was another good day,” added MacIntyre. “I was proud of the way I started and tomorrow I just need to stick to what I’ve been doing.”
Wallace, who is bidding to become the second quickest player after Sandy Lyle to rack up five European Tour victories, stretched a one-shot overnight lead to four by starting with three straight birdies. But, after dropping his first shot of the week at the 48th hole, he then ran up a double-bogey three holes later. A 70 left him tied for top spot with Kinhult, a former Lytham Trophy winner, with Fleetwood lurking ominously after covering his last holes in four-under for a 68.
“The finish was great,” admitted the world No 16. “After being slow for two-and-a-half days pretty much, a little goal was to give the crowd something to cheer about on the back nine, and 11 and 12 got that going a little bit,” he said of an eagle-birdie burst.
Liam Johnston’s 71 for six-under included a brace of eagles, chipping in from 40 yards at the second then hitting a 5-iron from over 200 yards to five feet at the 11th. Having moved to nine-under, he was inside the top 10, before bogeys at the 13th, 16th and 18th dropped him into a share of 22nd spot with a circuit to go. “It was a good day, but I let it slip at the end,” said Johnston. “After 12 holes, I was looking at pushing on as opposed to making three bogeys.”
In the latest example of Scottish golf enjoying a resurgence on the European Tour, seven players out of 10 starters made the cut and, though unable to make the moves they would have been looking for in the penultimate circuit, Scott Jamieson, David Law, Grant Forrest and Connor Syme are all inside the top 50 as well.