Just two rounds into the new season, Richie Ramsay is already feeling confident about returning to the winner’s circle this year on the European Tour.
The 34-year-old has received huge encouragement from the way he’s played in carding scores of 68 and 70 to sit just outside the top 20 on six-under in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Ramsay has dropped just one shot so far at the long and notoriously difficult Abu Dhabi Golf Club and is loving extra length he’s finding with a new driver.
“Honestly, this might be the first tournament of the year, but I am already thinking of winning a tournament,” he admitted to The Scotsman.
“I’m normally a middle-to-end-of-the-year player, but my game feels really good. I’ve got a little bit of extra length with the driver but am also keeping the accuracy with it.
“I’ve also got a free-flowing attitude and enjoying being out here again. Maybe that’s because I had a bit more time off. Maybe that it is fuelling the fire to get back out.”
Just three shots off the lead overnight, Ramsay found himself eight behind Thomas Pieters before heading back out after the Belgian was among a whole host of players to take full advantage of easy morning conditions.
The three-time winner on the circuit reduced that gap on the leader by two shots after making birdies at two of the short holes - the fourth, where he rolled in a long one, and the 15th.
“I think that’s the best I’ve ever played round there tee to green,” he added. “I lasered it again today.
“I’m trying to think of a bad shot I hit - and I can’t really. I missed one green and, even then, I was putting from two yards off the edge.
“I played really good but didn’t hole many putts due to the fact I was struggling to read the greens.
“At my last hole, for example, I thought my birdie putt was going in but it went left and I just didn’t see that, even though I’ve got a greens book.”
Only Ramsay and Stephen Gallacher from a seven-strong Scottish starting contingent made it to the weekend in the $3 million event.
Gallacher, who’d also opened with a 68, is still on four-under after battling to a 72.
“That was a day when I had to grind out at a score and it feels as good doing that than when you play really well,” said the 43-year-old afterwards.
“I struggled off the tee a bit yesterday but hit my irons really well. Today I didn’t really hit a good shot from the middle of the fairway.
“I was in the middle of the fairway at the second and the tenth but I did well to be one-over for them after missing the greens at the wrong side.
“I think I had 11 single-putts and it was nice to finish with one for a birdie at the last. If that’s my worst day and I’m shooting level-par, then I’ll be chuffed to bits.”
After missing the cut here for the last two years, the double Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner has already started his 2018 campaign on a positive note.
“I’ll try and get my whole game together at the one time over the weekend,” he added. “I just need to get my driving better as I’m putting myself in positions where I am having to work hard to make par.”
David Drysdale (71) missed out by one on one-under, while Paul Lawrie (72), Scott Jamieson (71) and Marc Warren (73) all fell four short on two-over.
UAE-based PGA pro Tom Buchanan finished on five-over after a second-round 75.