TORONTO, Canada — Making his debut in a United States PGA Tour event at just 17, Ryan Ruffels was not merely content to turn up and experience the vibe.
Ruffels, twice the Australian junior champion and one of the best male prospects to emerge from Australian golf in a decade, shot a six-under par 66 in the opening round of the RBC Canadian Open outside Toronto.
It left him in a tie for third in a tournament worth $US 5.8 million and boasting a field with world top-10 player like Jason Day and Bubba Watson. Ruffels is playing on a sponsor's invitation as one of the world's leading amateurs. He recently played in the European tour's French Open as well, but missed the cut, and he has played in the Emirates Australian Open, finishing 21st at The Australian last year and tied-third in the Oates Victorian Open.
This is a remarkable performance by a player tipped for a huge future, a leading light in Golf Australia's national amateur squad.Ruffels, a Victoria Golf Club member who is still studying at secondary school in Melbourne, said the performance of three amateurs who finished in the top 15 at the Open Championship last week had inspired him today.
"That kind of gave me the confidence that I could match it with these guys, just like they did last week,'' he said. "My coach (Denis McDade) was out here the first few days -- Monday and Tuesday -- and we worked on a few things. The game felt good and I really like the course. It kind of clicked today.''
Ruffels is still learning, and each experience of a professional tournament gives him valuable lessons.
"I had a practice round with KJ Choi and he showed me some things out of the bunkers that were some of the coolest things I've seen,'' he said. "I walked off and said 'that's the most valuable practice round I've ever had'. I got to meet Jason Day as well and we had a bit of a chat, all the things you don't get to do at an amateur tournament. I'm getting to meet my idols and play against them.''
Day, who finished just outside the playoff at the Open Championship last week, began the tournament with a 68 today to be in contention.