He’s listened to the medical experts by not even touching a golf club for around six weeks, but Bob MacIntyre is still facing an anxious wait to find out if a complete shutdown since being crowned as European Tour Rookie of the Year has actually cured his niggling hand injury.
“We are not sure yet,” said the 23-year-old from Oban of the problem which flared up towards the end of a superb 2019 season and has stopped him from beginning some work on his game as he bids to keep kicking on in the new campaign.
“I have not touched a club since the DP World Tour Championship (in November) and it won’t be until this week, when I am back out in Dubai to try to get things ready for the start of my new season, that we will find out how the hand is.
“I’ve done everything I can to let it heal and now it is just a matter of time to see how it is and we will take it from there. If it’s better, then perfect. If not, we have got to sit down and think about what is going to solve the problem once and for all.”
MacIntyre, who is heading out to the UAE with his coach, David Burns, and his caddie, Greg Milne, in preparation for the European Tour’s three-event “Middle East Swing”, was never going to find it easy having a golf-free spell, especially when the family home is close to the 12th tee on Glencruitten Golf Club, but he was under strict orders.
“It was difficult not to pick up a club, but I was told by the specialist that I had to take time off and not touch a club,” added the left-hander, who racked up seven top-10 finishes, including a tie for sixth on his major debut in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, as he became the first Scot since Marc Warren in 2006 to claim the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year title.
“I have listened to him and, to be honest, it was good to get a break. It was more on the mental side that I needed that. After playing a number of events in a row, I start to get annoyed with myself and everyone around me, so it was good to just switch off and get a chance to restart with a clear head.”
Having broken the €2 million barrier in just 30 events on the European Tour, MacIntyre is 65th in the world rankings. If he can climb into the top 50 by the end of March, he’ll join Sandy Lyle, the 1988 winner, in flying the Saltire in this year’s Masters at Augusta National.
“I think everyone knows last year went better than we really expected it to go,” declared MacIntyre, who graduated from the Challenge Tour at the end of 2018 along with Grant Forrest, Liam Johnston and David Law. “The way I felt comfortable out here so quickly was very pleasing. I made so many cuts and the standard of my golf was high almost throughout the season.
“Overall, we are all delighted with how it went and it has been good to use my break to both re-cap and also reset some things as I start to work on things I need to improve. If I have the same season as last year, some things will happen that I have not even dreamed of. I’ve got my own expectations. I know what I can do and what I can’t do.
“As long as I go out, having set my small goals week in, week out that I can achieve. I can’t be worrying about the outcome as it is hard enough out here. Some guys will never win on the European Tour or anywhere in the world but still have a great career.
“I have to go out and try and win the battles I set myself. If I do that, I am sure we will do all right. I am still young. I’m only 23 and, although this is going to be my second year on tour, it is still going to be a learning curve. Yes, there will be expectations this year, I know that, but I have to try to blank that out and do my thing.”
How he feels physically in next week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship then the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Saudi International the following two weeks will determine how his schedule in the early part of the year shapes up.
“We’ve got the WGC event in Mexico towards the end of February,” he said of one of the rewards secured through last season’s exploits. “We are also trying to get an invite (for a PGA Tour event), but I need to see how the hand is in these first three tournaments.”
Referring to be tantalisingly close to securing a Masters debut, he added: “I’ve just got to try to take care of the golf. If I do, then I am sure we will be sitting nicely.”