Richie Ramsay shot a 6-under 65 Thursday to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the Andalucia Masters on the European Tour.
The 28-year-old Ramsay birdied four of the first 10 holes before an eagle-3 on No. 11. He chipped in for another birdie at the par-3 15th before his only blemish at the famed Valderrama Golf Club, a bogey at the par-5 17th.
“Valderrama is the kind of course that suits me,” said Ramsay, whose lone European Tour victory came in South Africa in 2009. “This course is a good challenge for me. You need to play it shot by shot, and that’s all I did.”
The former U.S. Amateur champion took advantage of the favorable morning conditions, as most of the top scores were made before the wind picked up and trickles of rain came down over Valderrama, a course known for its tight fairways and undulating greens.
Ross Fisher of England was Ramsay’s closest challenger with a 67, while Frenchman Gregory Havret and Scotsman Stephen Gallagher both shot 68 to trail by three.
Fisher made three early birdies before a triple bogey at No. 8. But he stuck an approach at the next hole to within four feet for another birdie, and picked up three more shots on the back nine.
Sergio Garcia, coming off his first victory in three years and hoping to become the first Spanish champion at Valderrama since it started hosting events in 1988, was five shots back in a tie for fifth after an inconsistent round.
Garcia was at 4 under after an eagle at No. 11, but had two bogeys and a double bogey over the next three holes. He finished the round by knocking in a short birdie putt at the 18th to tie Peter Lawrie, Scott Strange and David Drysdale at 1 under.
Martin Kaymer started with three bogeys but recovered for a 71, leaving him tied with Spanish playing partner Miguel Angel Jimenez and five other players, including Francesco Molinaro. The Italian watched his putt from the fringe wobble in for a birdie at the tough 17th.
Justin Rose was among a group of eight players tied on 72, while defending champion Graeme McDowell trailed Ramsay by eight shots after a difficult start.
The golfer from Northern Ireland nearly had an ace at the par-3 15th then missed his birdie putt. He then bogeyed No. 16 and rolled a 10-foot birdie putt wide after recovering from a terrible approach at No. 17.
“Didn’t control my ball well at all, but kinda hung tough,” McDowell wrote on Twitter. “2 over not a disastrous start. Got to control my ball flight better than that if I’m going to compete this weekend.”