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Adalucia Masters: Ramsay on a roll as Graeme McDowell slips back

By Karl MacGinty

When the west wind blows in over Gibraltar as wickedly as it did yesterday, guiding a golf ball safely around the tight, tree-lined fairways of Valderrama is a bit like trying to thread a needle on a moving bus.

Painful slips are unavoidable, which made the first round 65 shot by Aberdeen's Richie Ramsay at the Andalucia Masters appear utterly astonishing on a day when just eight players in a star-studded field of 96 European Tour professionals managed to break par.

Prominent among them was Peter Lawrie, 37, who chose this dog-day afternoon to post his best score ever at Valderrama, a splendid one-under par 71 which left the Castleknock man tied fifth with Sergio Garcia and Scott Strange.

Lawrie's well-suited to yesterday's challenge. He's a disciplined, precise golfer and, temperamentally, is blessed with a high pain-threshold, making him appear almost impervious to the occasional jab.

Though he'd two three-putt bogeys on his card yesterday, Lawrie still putted soundly, as exemplified by the eight-footer he sank for a bogey five at 18 after a succession of shots that might have stretched the patience of a saint.

Lawrie's 54th in the Order of Merit and hoping this weekend to boost his ranking sufficiently to allow him tempt fate and buy an air ticket to Dubai for his father-in-law Bernard Hudson.

“It's the one event he really likes going to each year but I can't buy the ticket just yet,” he explained. “Bernard looks after me so I have to look after him. He minds things at home when I'm not there,” added the father-of-four.

Ross Fisher recovered brilliantly from an ugly treble-bogey seven at eight, where he hit his tee shot out of bounds, to shoot 67 and claim second place, one ahead of two other early starters Gregory Havret and Stephen Gallacher. Fisher now ranks high among the favourites to relieve Graeme McDowell of his Andalucia Masters title on Sunday.

McDowell dropped two shots in the final five holes of a first round 73 and said: “I'm not in control of my golf ball at all right now.

“I'm scared to aim at the right side of the golf course because I can't hit my draw very well and I'm scared to aim at the left because my fade's not there all the time. I'm battling all the way. It's very, very close but I just can't seem to hit the switch.”

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