Ernie Els tips Bob MacIntyre as the left-hander to watch

Ernie Els saw a star in the making when he helped Bob MacIntyre find his feet on the European Tour and is now expecting to see the young Scot’s career “snowball” at the top level in golf.

Bob Macintyre has made a favourable impression on Ernie Els. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

MacIntyre was playing in only his third event as a card holder on the European circuit when he found himself in the same group as four-time major winner Els and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel in the third round of the South African Open just over a year ago.

The trio were together again on the final day at Randpark in Johannesburg before MacIntyre, a new graduate from the Challenge Tour at the time, was back in Els’s company the following week in the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

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The left-hander from Oban finished joint-15th in both events, admitting the confidence he gained from playing well in the company of the big South African had been key as he went on to record seven top-10 finishes to be crowned as Rookie of the Year last November.

“It’s nice to hear him make that comment,” said Els, inset, speaking about the 23-year-old as they found themselves back in the same field for this week’s Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf Club in King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea coast.

“Robert’s performed terrific since he and I played alongside each other. He reminded me of an old school kid doing it the right way by coming through junior golf, amateur golf and turning pro.

“I could see how excited he was to play alongside myself and he was a bit nervous in the final two rounds of the South African Open. Then I played with him the next week at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and he started getting his feet on the rung and he hasn’t stopped.

“He has a nice natural game and there’s nothing fancy about it. You can see he just loves playing the game and he does it well.”

Helped by three second-placed finishes, as well as a tie for sixth on his major debut in The Open at Royal Portrush, MacIntyre is close to breaking into the world’s top 50. If he does so by the end of March, he’ll join 1988 winner Sandy Lyle in flying the Saltire at The Masters in April.

“My advice to him would be just keep doing what he’s doing,” added Els. “It’s going to snowball for him and while confidence is a big thing, Robert started showing in the Rolex Series events he really belongs.

“Mentally, he can only get stronger. He could be the left-hander to watch into the future as you see how well he did at The Open last year.”