Ruffles on top in Panama

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Ryan Ruffels retains its shape in strong winds in Panama. Photo: PGA Tour Latinoamerica

The Australian Ryan Ruffels lost his Latinoamerica Tour card last year – but you wouldn't know today if he was flown back to the top form.

The 20-year-old shares the first round with the American Jared Wolfe at the spoiled Buenaventura Classic in Panama, the pair has shot impressive six-under-par 66's because only four players have broken 70.

Ruffels won his playing rights in the December development series final, the equivalent of the Q-School tour, with four sub-par rounds to finish third.

And although the circumstances today were still far from easy, Ruffels showed the hard work he has done to overcome a disappointing 2018 to bear fruit.

And to end a promising day for the small Aussie contingent, New South Welshman Harrison Endycott fought hard for an even par 72 to share 15.

The wind was so strong late in the day that Ruffels, who grew up in Victoria, played a rotating four-iron of 110 m for his third to the par-five 16th

"There are all sorts of things you can do to be creative here, I grew up in Australia, where it's windy. I was looking at some guys trying to make fuller shots today, they are short and making a bogey," Ruffels said.

"That is my advantage, and I hit the ball well.

"In some really windy conditions, I probably needed nine holes to get used to playing tournament golf again, because it was a while ago.

"I chipped on par-five (12th) of maybe 45 yards for eagle and that's what got me going and then I shot a nice long pit at the next one and a little bit of momentum.

"It was pretty easy when we started. The wind was not up, and probably after the fourth or fifth hole, the wind started to rise and they were perhaps the most outrageous nine holes I have ever played.

"I've never played so close in the wind."

Ruffels opened his lap with a bogey, but did little wrong afterwards.

Birdies on the fourth and seventh holes allowed him to turn to a bottom – and that's where the fun began when he became birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie from the tenth with four consecutive gusts of wind.

But it was his last five pars of the round that he said was the key to his success

"Parring the last four holes was much more impressive than birdie and eagles that asked," he said.

"The last four holes are some of the most brutal I've played, back in the wind."

Ruffels made only five of 11 cuts in an injured 2018 Latinoamerica Tour season, finishing 71st on the Order of Merit.


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