SOTOGRANDE, Spain - World number six Martin Kaymer questioned the flag positions at the Andalucia Masters on Thursday after finishing six strokes behind first-round leader Richie Ramsay of Britain.
Kaymer came back gamely from a poor start on a soaking Valderrama course to card a level-par 71. But he was unhappy with the way the greens, lashed by heavy overnight rain, were laid out.
“The tour put the pins at the back of the greens when they knew it was going to be soft,” the German told Reuters.
“It made it even tougher. Sometimes you had to spin the ball behind the green to try to get near the pin.”
Fourth-placed Kaymer needs to win this week to keep alive his outside hopes of catching Luke Donald at the top of the Race to Dubai money-list and retain his European number one status.
The German, three-over after eight holes, bounced back with three birdies in four holes from the ninth.
“I had to tell myself that something around par was going to be a good score and I hit a lot of good shots on the back nine,” Kaymer said.
Ramsay, two strokes better than second-placed Ross Fisher of Britain, had few worries about the flag positions as he slotted home a 25-foot eagle putt at the par-five 11th and chipped in for two of his five birdies.
The Scot, in the first group out, made most of his gains before a capricious wind whipped up, fulfilling a prediction he made after finishing tied third behind Sergio Garcia last week in the Castello Masters.
“I said I could play well here because it’s a shotmaker’s course,” Ramsay explained. “My chipping was really good. I’ve been working on it so it’s nice to see my work paying off.”
Fisher wasted three early birdies with a triple-bogey seven at the eighth after hitting his ball out of bounds.
The former World Match Play champion and 2010 Ryder Cup player refused to be fazed and made four birdies in the next six holes to shoot a 67.
“I only had 24 putts and I don’t think I’ve ever done that before,” said Fisher.
“I’ve lengthened my putter and changed the grip but I think it’s the advice I got over the phone from (putting coach) Dave Stockton that helped most. He told me to ease up on myself and just go with the flow.”
Frenchman Gregory Havret and Scot Stephen Gallacher were tied for third spot on 68.
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.
Justin Rose was among a group of eight players tied at 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.
“2 over not a disastrous start," McDowell wrote on Twitter. "Got to control my ball flight better than that if I'm going to compete this weekend.”
Files from the Associated Press were used in this report