Upbeat Scott Jamieson getting his greens as he opens with 67 in Saudi

On a day of lots of moans and groans about putting woes in the first round of the inaugural Saudi Invitational, it was refreshing to hear a Scot talking positively about how he’d performed on the greens. It had been the same, in fact, in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship a fortnight ago with Scott Jamieson.
Scotland's Richie Ramsay plays off the eighth tee during the first dayof the Saudi International  Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesScotland's Richie Ramsay plays off the eighth tee during the first dayof the Saudi International  Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Scotland's Richie Ramsay plays off the eighth tee during the first dayof the Saudi International Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

It seems that living in Florida for more than a year is allowing the 35-year-old Glaswegian to improve an area of the game which, unfortunately, seems to be an Achilles’ heel for many Scots. “I think it should help,” said Jamieson of now being based in a better climate than his compatriots on the European Tour. “The greens at my home course in Florida, The Plantation in Ponte Vedra, are tournament speed.”

Justin Rose, the world No 1, struggled more than most on the paspalum grasssurfaces at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on the first day of the $3.25 million event on the Red Sea coast. “Collectively, our group was probably the worst putting round I’ve seen for three professional golfers in a long, long time,” he said after a level-par 70. “The greens were very tricky, very, very grainy. It was tough to factor it in and I missed ten putts probably within six to ten-feet range.”

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In contrast, Jamieson enjoyed a successful day with his flatstick as he carded six birdies in a 67, four shots behind the pacesetter, big-hitting Belgian Thomas Pieters, but an effort that left him sitting inside the top 20.

“I putt reasonably well on grainy greens,” said Jamieson, who has made a promising start to the 2019 schedule with two top-15 finishes in three starts. “The grain on these ones is really strong, so you have to allow for a lot of that and trust it. You are going to miss the odd short one on them. That’s just the nature of what happens on grain. You just have to accept it and move on.”

On his overall play in a round that included a 40-foot birdie putt being rolled in on the 11th, he added: “I played really well. All three of my bogeys were from 91 yards exactly, strangely enough. Barring nine holes last week, I’ve played well so far this year. You’ve always got to be honest where your game is at I know that mine is pretty good just now.”

Also feeling pretty upbeat heading into the second round is Richie Ramsay. His opening 68 was partial reward for attention to detail. On Wednesday, the Aberdonian was kneeling on the practice putting green behind a metal chute and rolling balls down it to try to figure out how the golf ball breaks on these particular surfaces.

“It’s something I use to help me read putts when I am practising. It gives me a better perspective of how the ball is breaking,” said Ramsay after signing for five birdies. “That probably helped me hole a few out there today, though, at the same time, I had a few 15-footers that never looked in.

“I drove it lovely, missing just one fairway, and that allowed me to be pretty aggressive with my irons,” he added. “To have three bogeys was a shame, but I don’t feel my game is too far away from clicking.”

Out in the tougher afternoon conditions, rookie Bob MacIntyre also broke par with a 69. Two-under through 12 holes, the 22-year-old dropped back-to-back shots at the fifth and sixth before rolling in 
a 20-footer for a closing 
birdie. “It might sound silly when I’ve only shot one-under, but I played great,” he said. “To birdie the last was a big one as it put me inside the cut, meaning I can go out tomorrow morning, when the conditions will be a bit easier, with a bit of freedom.”

Pieters certainly made most of being out in the morning in his opening circuit, bagging seven birdies in a bogey-free effort to lead by two shots from a group that includes Englishman Alfie Plant, who stormed to the turn in a stunning 28 before becoming human on the back nine.

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“I pretty much flagged it all the way on the front nine,” said Plant, who won the Silver Medal at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale but is playing here through a sponsor’s invitation after failing to get through the second stage in the European Tour Qualifying School last year.

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