The rookie Scot started the day as co-leader in the weather-delayed Alfred Dunhill Links Championship but promptly vanished from the leaderboards after a dreadful start at Kingsbarns, where he bogeyed his second hole, the 11th, and then had a double-bogey 7 at the 12th with a visit to a water hazard.
Three birdies and that eagle rescued a two-under-par 70 and a 13-under-par total of 203 that leaves him in joint fourth place two shots behind the leader, England’s Luke Donald, who had a 64 over the same course, going into today’s final round at St Andrews.
“It was a bit up and down, but I am especially pleased that I managed to turn things around after a very poor start,” said the 26-year-old Aberdonian. “I birdied the next hole and that settled me down. I have been a lot more relaxed this week and I am trying to enjoy it. I have been determined not to get flustered.
“I could have finished a couple of shots better, but I did hole that 100-foot putt from just off the green at the sixth, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too greedy. It was also nice to finish with a six-footer for birdie and that’s important going into tomorrow.”
It was a day that an erstwhile promising Scottish challenge generally went backwards. Alastair Forsyth fell away with a 77 at Carnoustie, Steven O’Hara had a 74 at St Andrews, and after Ramsay the next best home player is now Marc Warren in joint 33rd place after a 71 at Kingsbarns for six-under 210.
Barring something sensational, Ramsay, who would secure his card for next season with a top-10 finish, is now the only Scottish hope for the £485,000 top prize and with the riches on offer today he could afford to laugh at the £280 cost of altering his flight to Spain for this week’s Madrid Masters because the tournament has had to run another day. No play was possible on Saturday because of high winds.
“That’s pennies compared to what I would win tomorrow if I’m sitting on the Swilcan Bridge with the trophy,” he said.
“I’m hoping for a lot of Scottish support but in such a great field I will be concentrating on what I’m doing and trying to stay relaxed. My last top-10 finish was in Wales in June and it would be wonderful to have a good finish here. To be in contention over the last few holes would be a dream come true.”
Donald, 31, was cutting a dash not just with his collection of nine birdies, but also with his tartan trousers in recognition of his Scottish background. Father Colin is from Stranraer.
“He was born in Scotland and is fully Scottish but lived most of his life in England. Yeah, I’m half-sweaty,” he said, and for the benefit of those of don’t understand this word it is rhyming slang for a Scot derived tortuously through the terms sweaty sock and Jock.
The former Ryder Cup player who is partnering footballer Jamie Redknapp this week, is going for his first win in more than three years, his last coming in the Honda Classic in Florida in 2006 while his last success in Europe was five years ago. He takes a one stroke lead into today from another Englishman, Simon Dyson, and 20-year-old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who will be playing alongside his father Gerry on his 50th birthday.
A bizarre aspect to this tournament is that handicappers still involved in the team event are scattered among the professionals playing for one of the biggest purses on the European Tour schedule. That will be the case for McIlroy Sr today and he is in no doubt about the priority.
“I picked up quite often today, because the most important thing for me is that Rory does well. I don’t want to get in his way,” he said. “We are still in the team competition but tomorrow is all about Rory.”
McIlroy Jr had a 69 at Kingsbarns and, having finished third and eighth in the last two tournaments, he is widely fancied to emerge the winner today and move to the No.1 spot in the Race to Dubai standings.
There is a distinct Northern Irish hue to the leaderboard. Another Ulsterman, Darren Clarke, is among those alongside Ramsay in joint fourth place and the former Ryder Cup player he is bidding for his first victory in more than a year, following his KLM Open win in Holland, while Michael Hoey is also on the same mark.
The team event is led by Kieran McManus, son of two-time winner JP, who is receiving 10 strokes per round and has improved the score of his professional, Denmark’s Soren Hansen, by 26 strokes to lead by two on 31-under-par 185.