Bob MacIntyre in Race to Dubai mix heading into final round of European Tour season
After a brilliant bogey-free six-under-par 66, the 24-year-old from Oban sits just one shot off the lead heading into the final round of the season-ending $8 million DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
World No 11 and current Race to Dubai leader Patrick Reed shares top spot with English duo Laurie Canter and Matt Fitzpatrick on 11-under-par, with double Order of Merit winner Lee Westwood and two-time PGA Tour winner Viktor Hovland alongside MacIntyre and young Spaniard Adri Arnaus on 10-under.
It’s all to play for in the battle for a $3 million first prize, with MacIntyre feeling excited to be in the thick of things as he bids to become the first Scot to land this event and also join eight-time winner Montgomerie by ending the season as the circuit’s No 1.
“My game is feeling great and I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” said the left-hander, who is only in his second season on the top circuit and landed his breakthrough win in the Cyprus Showdown last month. “This gives me an opportunity and I’m just going to enjoy myself tomorrow and see where I end up.”
MacIntyre smiled when it was mentioned that he’d set up a chance to follow in Montgomerie’s footsteps. “It would mean everything,” he said of that possible feat. “But I’ve got a job to do tomorrow, so I can’t look too far ahead.”
MacIntyre, who started the day six shots off the lead, birdied the third and seventh to get to six-under before moving up a gear on the back nine on the Greg Norman-designed layout.
He rolled in a 15-footer at the 11th, followed that up with another birdie from 35 feet at the next, converted a 12-footer at the par-5 14th before making it four gains in six holes with a tap-in at the 16th after an approach from 142 yards that was “dancing around the pin”.
A good up and down from a greenside bunker at the 17th maintained his momentum and, though unable to sign off with a birdie at the par-5 last hole, it was another great day’s work from the young Scot, who had just 12 putts on the back nine.
“Played great,” he said. “It's always good to have a bogey-free run but doing it today was huge. The putter was there today.“I think I hit 15 greens yesterday and I was 25 foot away every time, but today I was knocking it in close. I played really good again and that's been the secret last couple of weeks. When the putter has been good, I've scored well.”
Is that part of his game as good as it's ever been? “It is,” he admitted. “Last year I putted unbelievably for a full season, but this year, it was cold at the start. I think Thursday was the best putting round I've had in my life stats-wise, which is huge for what I'm trying to do this week. I'm sure today was another good one.”
In addition to everything else, MacIntyre can break into the world’s top 50 for the first time if he finishes seventh or better, an achievement that would see him secure a first trip to the Masters next April.
“I'll just go back from here and chill out as I usually do, play a bit of PlayStation, chat with Stoddy (manager Iain Stoddart), Davy (Burns, his coach) and Mike (Thompson, his caddie),” he replied to being asked about his mindset heading into what could be the biggest day of his career so far. “I'm going to prepare the same way as I do day-to-day and see where we end up. That's all I can do.”
Canter, who is bidding to land his breakthrough win with a bang at the age of 31, carded a 68 to earn his share of the lead, with 2016 winner Fitzpatrick and Reed signing for 69 and 71 respectively.
Reed, who is attempting to become the first American to win the Race to Dubai, retained his spot at the top of the projected standings thanks to a short-game masterclass, as had been predicted by playing partner Fitzpatrick at the halfway stage.
He followed a great up and down to save par at the second with an even better one at the seventh before bouncing back from two bogeys in three holes on the back nine by holing out from a bunker for a birdie-3 at the 15th. His par at the next after having to lay up from a fairway bunker was also a thing of beauty.
The 2017 Masters champion was close to going in the water at both the 17th and 18th but escaped with a par and birdie. “It was sloppy,” he said of his day’s work. “It was one of those days when I had to lean on my short game to be in a position where I am sharing the lead.”Marc Warren jumped into the top 20 on the back of a 68 that was set up by four birdies in the first seven holes.“There were a few tricky pins again today and I felt as though my iron play was really strong,” he said. “I wasn’t great off the tee, but managed to make up for poor tee shots with some good iron shots.”Connor Syme (72) and Scott Jamieson (74) are just inside the top 50 on two-over, six shots ahead of Grant Forrest (75).
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