Aberdeen’s Richie Ramsay put local knowledge to good use on the opening day of the ASI Scottish Open to lead hopes of a first home winner for 20 years.
The 36-year-old, who is based in Edinburgh and a member of this week’s host the Renaissance Club, rolled in a 50ft putt from off the green at the ninth, his final hole of the day, for a six-under 65.
Ramsay is only two shots adrift of joint leaders Edoardo Molinari, Matt Kuchar, Nino Bertasio and Romain Wattel after his round of seven birdies and a solitary bogey.
The three-time European Tour winner went into the event on the back of three missed cuts but returned to form to spearhead the Scottish contingent on a day of low-scoring.
Colin Montgomerie was the last home player to win the Scottish Open when he triumphed at Loch Lomond in 1999.
Ramsay said: “I tried to be patient out there. There is obviously a lot of expectation and also a lot of other factors that you think about coming into a week like this. You sometimes put too much pressure on yourself just to play well.
“It was nice to hole a few putts, especially that one from off the green from 50 feet 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 and I enjoyed it out there.
“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 as the greens were a bit softer than normal.
“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.
“The Scottish Open is always a week you can’t wait for and it’s the same with the Dunhill Links for the Scottish guys.
“It’s not just because it is the Scottish Open, it’s also a Rolex Series event which brings a huge amount of benefits.
“We are talking about big Race to Dubai points, world ranking points and, of course, there are three Open spots at the end of it as well.”
While it was a satisfying day’s work for Ramsay, yesterday’s first round was also a day that Oban golfer Robert MacIntyre won’t forget.
As a nod to his superb rookie season on the European Tour, the 22-year-old left-hander was paired in the marquee group with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
If MacIntyre was feeling any nerves at playing with two of golf’s biggest names, he didn’t show them early on.
He settled any butterflies with a birdie at the first before rolling in three in a row from the fifth to reach four under.
But those gains were wiped out around the turn with three bogeys on the trot before he bounced back with birdies at 11 and 16 for a round of three-under 68.
He said: “It was brilliant. I’ve never experienced anything like the first tee.
“On the Challenge Tour last year there wasn’t much noise at all.
“But out there, it was just brilliant. I couldn’t have imagined a better start to my first Scottish Open.
“There were plenty of nerves. On 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.
“Rory and Rickie are great guys. I met Rickie on Monday so I knew him to say hello.
“But Rory was brilliant. The two of them are as chilled out as you get.
“For me to be playing with two guys of that stature, it couldn’t have been better.”
McIlroy, who shot a four-under 67, was full of praise for MacIntyre’s mature display.
He said: “I thought he did great. I said to him I enjoyed watching him at Hillside (when MacIntyre finished runner-up at the British Masters).
“I can’t remember where we were in the States, but I turned on the golf and he was in contention and he played very well.
“I told him I enjoyed watching that and he played great here, he handled himself really well.
“He got off to a nice start, it was a bit of a shaky one around the middle but he came back with a couple of birdies. He did very well.”
Grant Forrest, who also practices at The Renaissance Club, was next best-placed after Ramsay of the 15 Scots in the field after finishing tied 29th thanks to a four-under 67, with David Drysdale, Callum Hill and MacIntyre one shot further back.
Stephen Gallacher, Russell Knox, Scott Jamieson and Chris Doak are one under, while Fraserburgh’s Kris Nicol, who qualified last weekend, is one over after a 72.
Paul Lawrie shot a two-over 73, while it was a day to forget for fellow Aberdonian David Law after he shot a six-over par round of 77.