Four days after proclaiming “Bring on Valderrama”, Scotland’s Richie Ramsay rose to the challenge of continental Europe’s toughest course.
The 28-year-old, from Aberdeen, began the Andalucia Masters with a superb six under par 65 and, with Sergio Garcia losing the magic of last week, leads by two from England’s Ross Fisher.
“Valderrama is the kind of course that suits me,” said Ramsay, third at the Castello Masters on Sunday, 12 strokes behind Garcia. “It’s a shot-maker’s course. You need to manoeuvre the ball right to left or left to right, sometimes you need the low shot or the high one and I feel comfortable doing that.
“I worked out a good game plan with my caddie about how to play it in the wind and it’s always nice to have a 65 around a classic course like this because it’s had the Ryder Cup and so many great champions.”
Out in the first group of the day, the former US Amateur champion went to the turn in 32, then started for home birdie-eagle and picked up another stroke at the short 15th.
Ramsay’s only mistake came when he took six on the 536-yard 17th, missing the green with his pitch over the water into the wind.
Fisher, down to 83rd in the world a year after making his Ryder Cup debut and without a top five finish all season, had seven birdies and 10 pars, but also a triple bogey seven.
That came on the eighth, at 350 yards the shortest par four on the Spanish course, after his drive hit a tree and went out of bounds.
Garcia threatened to be the story of the day again when he chipped in to match Ramsay’s eagle on the 11th and reached four under, but in the end he had to settle for a one under 70.
Justin Rose, playing only his fourth event in Europe this year, had a 72 and defending champion Graeme McDowell a 73.
Sheffield’s Danny Willett finished on 75, with Harrogate’s John Parry a further shot back.
Hull’s Richard Finch has it all to do on the second day after a 79.