Richie Ramsay is edging closer to securing a return to Augusta National in April as he heads into the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Ramsay recorded six third-round birdies in a five-under-par 67 to muscle his way into a share of fifth place on eight under, just four shots behind the Ryder Cup-clinching Justin Rose, who leads after shooting a 68.
Rose is competing in Abu Dhabi for the first time and after three-putting the first for bogey, the world No 5 birdied five of six holes from the fourth.
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The Englishman is looking to make amends after losing last year's season-ending event in nearby Dubai to world No 1 Rory McIlroy, despite shooting a final-day 62. He need not worry about his Ryder Cup colleague mounting a challenge this time in the Middle East, after the Northern Irishman missed the cut along with Tiger Woods.
"There's always a lot of hullabaloo going on when Rory and Tiger are in a field but you can't let any other opponent influence you," he said, after his 68. "They can't come and rugby tackle you or anything like that. I've tried my whole career not to let that influence me."
Prior to this week, Ramsay had managed to break 70 just once in a dozen rounds on the course. He is now done that twice in a matter of days after fighting back from a first-round 73 with a day-two 68.
"I am slightly surprised I am doing as well as there were a few things going on over my break, not the least being my honeymoon," said Ramsay. "So I did very little, but it's kept me a little fresher coming into this week. I've just played really nicely, and stayed patient on the greens again, rolling in a couple – that makes the difference."
While Ramsay had 33 putts on day one, he managed to reduce that tally to 28 on day two and 29 yesterday, with thanks going to his putting instructor.
"I believe Phil Kenyon is one of the most underrated teachers in golf," said Ramsay. "I've continued that work I did with him towards the end of last season, just ingraining it.
"I don't want to do too much else for the next two or three weeks, not too many technical thoughts in my brain, just trying to free-flow it. So where I am at the moment is a mixture of what Phil tells me and what Bob Rotella teaches. It's mixing the two together."
Twelve months ago the Aberdonian arrived in the UAE capital ranked 102nd in the world. Now the reigning European Masters champion is just one round away from a sought-after placing in the top 50.
Ramsay would move to 48th in the world should he hold his present fifth position in Abu Dhabi, while a third place would send him as high as 45th – opening the door to many more prestigious tournaments. Firstly, top 64 in the world guarantees Ramsay a first start in next month's WGC-Accenture Match-Play Championship in Arizona.
And if Ramsay can hold his place among the elite of world golf to mid-March, then it will mean a return visit to Augusta National and his first as a pro after making his Masters debut in 2007 as the reigning US Amateur champion.
Back in Abu Dhabi, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen – flying the Nike flag following the exits of the game's two leading lights – are in joint second place after both handed in 69s. Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, third last week at the Volvo Golf Champions, is a further stroke back on nine under, one ahead of Ramsay, England's David Howell and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
After Ramsay, Stirling's Craig Lee is the next best Scot, sharing 29th place at two under par after a 72.