Richie Ramsay is not quite in the Bryson DeChambeau league when it comes to a scientific approach to golf but, like the American, he’s definitely one of the game’s thinkers.
On Wednesday, the Capital-based player was kneeling on the practice putting green at Royal Greens behind a metal chute and rolling balls down it as part of his preparation for the inaugural Saudi International.
He was trying to figure out how the golf ball breaks on the paspalum grass on the greens at the European Tour’s newest venue and his attention to detail helped him get off to an encouraging start on the Red Sea coast.
On a day when a lot of players in the field, including world No. 1 Justin Rose struggled on the putting surfaces, Ramsay holed his fair share of putts in carding a two-under-par 70.
“The greens here are very difficult,” said the three-time European Tour winner after an effort that left him sitting just outside the top 30 on a day when big-hitting Belgium Thomas Pieters set the pace with a 63.
“The grain really pulls the ball. The greens are good; it’s just a different type of grass than what we are used to.
“The putting aid I was using on Wednesday is something I use to help me read putts when I am practising. It gives me a better perspective of how the ball is breaking.
“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!”
Out in the easier morning conditions, Ramsay picked up three birdies in the first five holes before covering the remaining stretch in one-over.
“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.
“I just need to trust my irons a bit more, but I’m not hitting a lot of balls at the moment because of my wrist, which I still have strapped after hurting it hitting off mats back home.”
Rookie Bob MacIntyre also broke par, holing a 20-foot birdie putt at his last hole for a 69. “I played great in tough afternoon conditions,” he said.
Stephen Gallacher opened with a level-par 70, one better than both Grant Forrest and David Drysdale.
“I’m still not firing on all cylinders off the tee,” said Gallacher after an effort that contained two birdies and two bogeys. “A good one is going 330 yards down the middle, but a bad one now and again either ends up behind up a bush, leaving me having to play out sideways, or out of bounds.”
A day of struggling on the greens was summed up for Forrest when he three-putted from no more than 18 feet to finish with a bogey.
It was also a frustrating first circuit for Drysdale, who signed off with a double-bogey 7 after finding water with his third at the par-5 18th.
Scott Jamieson fared best among the eight Scots in the field, making six birdies as he opened with a 67 to sit inside the top 20.
“I played really well,” he said. “Barring nine holes last week (when he missed the cut in Dubai), 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.”
David Law recovered from being three-over after just four holes to match Gallacher’s effort, with Liam Johnston also opening with a level-par effort despite a double-bogey 7 at the fourth – his 13th.