Richie Ramsay back in the swing at Castle Stuart
|Scottish Open final leaderboard|
|-14 A Noren (Swe);-13T Hatton (Eng); -12 N Colsaerts (Bel) M Manassero (Ita) D Lee (NZ); -11 R Ramsay (Sco) A Sullivan (Eng)|
|Selected others: -9 R Knox (Sco) G McDowell (N Ire); -7 P Michelson (US) D Drysdale (Sco) C Paisley (Eng) M Kaymer (Ger)|
Richie Ramsay didn't win the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, but he wore a contented smile none the less having played himself into the top-six and securing himself a place in The Open Championship at Royal Troon later this week.
At one point in his final round of 67, Ramsay looked like he might take his challenge to the wire, closing to within a single shot of the eventual champion, Alex Noren, following a run of four straight birdies in his opening six holes.
He said he stood on the 10th tee believing for the first time in his life that he could win a title that he says would mean almost as much to him as a major championship. Not enough putts dropped on the back nine - he gave himself multiple opportunities - and he had to settle for the consolation prize of a slot in The Open.
Ramsay asked about Andy Murray in the aftermath and called the now two-time Wimbledon champion an inspiration. "Watching Andy play at Wimbledon this week, watching Jamie play, those guys are huge inspirations for Scottish people," he said. "To win Wimbledon is a massive achievement and I think sometimes we take that for granted, we forget how good he is.
"It's great watching him, because he's Scottish and because he's got that grit and fire. I love that attitude. For me, every week is about trying to be the best I can be.
"When I'm 60, I want to sit in my chair watching the golf and be able to say that I won X number of tour titles and that I couldn't squeeze any more out of the talent I had. Talent is great, but if you don't have that hard work ethic, you're not to get anywhere."
Ramsay has won three times on tour, the most recent of them being the Trophee Hassan in March last year. He's played in The Open five times, missing the cut on three occasions. His best finish was 58th at Muirfield in 2013. He was tied for 68th at St Andrews last year.
His performance here rather came out of the blue. Ramsay finished sixth in China in May, but his form since then has been poor, his best finish a 43rd. His season had been a grind up until Castle Stuart.
"I just loved it out there," he said. "I didn't come out with a tentative attitude, which has sometimes been my fault in the past. I hit some great shots.
"I knew, standing on that 10th tee, that I could win the tournament and that's a great feeling. I just have to take that into the next year and see if I can get this title in the bag one of these years.
"From a confidence point of view, I will think to myself that I had a chance to win a huge tournament. You're halfway there when you believe you can do it. I know I have a lot more in the tank."
Castle Stuart didn't get the champion it wanted, with due credit to the excellent Noren, but it was a terrific host venue. The troubling aspect - and it's reflective of golf's serious problem - was the size of the crowd on each of the four days.
The total attendance for Thursday-Sunday was 41,809. The final round brought the smallest number of fans - 8,733 - of the week.
There was a Murray effect there for sure. But it's a much wider issue than that.
Last year at Gullane, the Scottish brought in a total crowd of 63,000, which was, in turn, less than the 65,833 that attended the year before at Royal Aberdeen.
The small numbers this time are partly on account of geography but also to do with golf's diminishing attraction as a spectator sport.
None of that bothered Noren, of course. Nor Ramsay. If there was a competition to find the widest smile at Castle Stuart last night, the two of them would have been locked in a dead heat.