Bob MacIntyre on dream double date, his swipe at 'dafties', LIV Golf and Oban

It’s a dreich day in Oban but people are going about their daily routines. “I’m just watching a woman going in for a swim as we speak and she must be off her head,” said Bob MacIntyre, chuckling, as he looked out the window from his flat close to a beautiful sandy beach at the east end of his beloved home town.

Facing square on to the 18-mile Sound of Mull that separates the island of Mull from mainland Scotland, the bachelor pad is where the 25-year-old has found solace in recent weeks after hitting the first bumps on the road in his professional career, though sitting out a first major since making his debut on the game’s showpiece stages and missing a couple of cuts on the DP World Tour has hardly constituted a crisis.

“It’s just not happening for me just now, but hopefully I can find a spark in these two events,” said MacIntyre, referring to an exciting double date on home soil - next week’s Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian followed by the 150th Open at St Andrews the week after.

It will be the left-hander’s third appearance in the latter, having tied for sixth on his debut at Royal Portrush in 2019 before finishing in the top 10 once more at Royal St George’s 12 months ago. That effort on the Kent coast meant his place in this year’s milestone edition had been locked up long before most other players around the world started exploring every route possible on the road leading to the Home of Golf.

Bob MacIntyre watches a tee shot during The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, in February. Picture: Michael Owens/Getty Images.

“It’s been unbelievable,” he admitted of his early endeavours in the game’s oldest major. “To even think I am going to be playing in an Open at St Andrews is amazing. As a kid you dream of playing in The Open, but to have a chance to compete in it at St Andrews as a Scot, I mean there’s not a golf tournament like it, I’d say. It’s the most special golf tournament and venue you can possibly play in and I’m just hoping that I can go there and be competing come Sunday afternoon.”

First things first, though. As the Scottish No 1 and also one of the new wave of young stars on the DP World Tour, MacIntyre has featured prominently in the promotion of the Genesis Scottish Open, which marks a new chapter for the event as it creates history as the first tournament to be co-sanctioned between the DP World Tour and PGA Tour as part of a Strategic Alliance involving the two circuits.

“Since I’ve played in the Scottish Open, it’s been big - there’s always a lot of big names coming over for it,” said MacIntyre, who, as an example, found himself paired with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler in the opening two rounds for the event’s first staging at The Renaissance Club in 2019.

Even so, the field on this occasion is pretty mind-boggling. Led by top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, it features nine of the current world’s top 10 and 14 out of the top 15. That stellar cast includes all four of the reigning major champions in Scheffler (The Masters), Collin Morikawa (The Open), Justin Thomas (PGA) and Matthew Fitzpatrick (US Open).

Bob MacIntyre enjoyed playing with Scotland and Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn in the Betfred British Masters Pro-Am at The Belfry. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

“The field is going to be unbelievable - it’s bigger and better than ever,” observed MacIntyre, who played down his part in the pre-event promotional push. “I’m not at their level yet,” he said of that. “I’ve not proven myself like a lot of those guys have. But I know that, if I do the right things, I can be one of the guys competing week in, week out.”

Colin Montgomerie won on home soil, as did Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren. As recently as last year, Grant Forrest, one of MacIntyre’s Bounce Sport stablemates, landed his maiden DP World Tour triumph at Fairmont St Andrews in the Hero Open. As was the case with all of them, MacIntyre is well aware that he’ll have a small army of fans rooting for him over the next couple of weeks.

“It’s not so much a case of trying to concentrate; it’s more nerves,” he said of playing in front of a home crowd. “You want to do well. You want to compete. I couldn’t imagine anything better in my golf career than to compete down the stretch in a Scottish Open or an Open on home soil - it would just be wild. That’s all I want to do. I play golf for those moments. They’ve not been coming very often lately, but I can’t wait for the Scottish Open and The Open.”

Having made the cut in all nine majors he’s teed up in so far, the big occasions certainly seem to bring out the best in the former Scottish Amateur champion. He let out a loud laugh, though, when asked how he felt as he stood on the first tee at Royal Portrush three years ago in the middle of his rookie season on the DP World Tour.

Bob MacIntyre pictured during the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett at The Belfry in May. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

“It was outrageous,” he confessed. “Greg [Milne] was on the bag and I think he was wanting me to hit the 3-wood as the 2-iron wasn’t going to go far enough and I just remember hitting my 3-wood in the Men’s Home Internationals there into a strong wind and I hit two balls out of bounds. So I remember saying to him, ‘Greig, I don’t care if this thing doesn’t reach the fairway’.

“The nerves were unbelievable that day and I’m going to say now that they aren’t going to be any different on the first tee at St Andrews. There’s going to be quite a lot of support for me and I’ve got to try and make it loose as possible, but, at the end of the day, I can’t hide it.

“However, I would say that week at Portrush was the week I fully realised I could compete with the best players in the world. I’d done it a few times on the European Tour with the likes of Tommy [Fleetwood] and a few others. But I’d say that The Open at Portrush was the week when I thought ‘you know what, my good golf can compete with the good golf of the best players in the world’. You don’t need to know anything else about your game other than that. If you can do it on that stage, you can do it at any point in your career. It’s just to know that it’s there.

“I remember playing brilliant one day in a practice round in Dubai - and this will always stick with me - when someone said to me ‘why are you doing it so early?’ Ken (Brown, the former Ryder Cup player who is now one of the top commentators in the game) was there and he turned round and goes ‘it’s good to know it’s in there’ and that’s all it was at The Open at Portrush, knowing that if you turn up with that golf game, then you can compete.”

While he may still be learning his trade, MacIntyre isn’t scared to say what he thinks, as American Kyle Stanley, one of his playing partners in the opening two rounds in that 2019 Claret Jug event discovered when he didn’t shout ‘Fore’ to warn spectators of wayward shots on more than one occasion on the Antrim coast.

“Aye, it was all down to the etiquette in the game,” said the Scot of taking the more experienced Stanley to task. “I’ve been brought up in a small-knit family and small-knit community and a small golf club and you’d have been chewed out for that at home if someone was close to getting hit or actually hit.

“I have learned that maybe it escalated too much, but, even now with me and Mike (Thomson, his current caddie), if a ball is going offline, from the get go we’ll roar and, you know what, we’ve had a couple of people say something to me. But, at the end of the day, my family are down there, there’s spectators down there, so I’ll shout.”

In a sense, MacIntyre used social media to shout out in frustration a few weeks back after facing claims from keyboard critics that, in the wake of a disappointing weekend in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, where he closed with rounds of 80 and 76, he should be performing better. “All the daftys saying [I’m] needing to do better. Calm down, it’s still early,” he wrote in a post on Twitter.

Laughing once more as it was mentioned, he admitted: “I probably shouldn’t have tweeted that, but it was something that was bugging me because it was non-stop for about a week. It’s all down to expectation. At the end of the day, I feel I should have won about four or five European Tour events already and I haven’t. It’s not easy to win golf tournaments - I’ve shown that. But who knows? Look at Scottie Scheffler. He hadn’t won in however many starts then, bang, he reels off four in six events, including The Masters. It’s there. It’s just about getting belief again and doing it.

“My major record is, what I think anyway, decent, but it could be better. In The Open at Portrush, I maybe snuck up a few more places than I thought. Then The Open at St George’s, I was playing 13 or 14 thinking to myself ‘I could win The Open’. I had a chance.

“In The Masters in 2020, I was top five with four holes to go, bogeyed 16 and 17 but then birdied 18. Realistically, that could have been a top five. I mean, people have got their opinions. But I’ve got my own opinions - that’s just the way life is and you’ve just got to get on with it.

“For me, it’s about being realistic. I believe I can win one of these things (a major). But, if I walked away from golf today, I could sit happily and say ‘you know what, I competed in the four biggest golf tournaments on the planet’ and I would say I competed well or really well in three of them. I’ve played in nine and performed really well in three - that’s not a bad ratio.

“It’s all about what I want out of the game. I’ve not done everything I want to do so far. But, if you asked me when I turned pro and was on the Challenge Tour, would I be sitting here four or five years later in my flat, I’d have laughed at you, saying ‘don’t be daft, I just want to be off the Challenge Tour’.”

He was crowned as 2019 European Tour Rookie of the Year after taking that first big step before landing a maiden win on the main circuit in the Cyprus Showdown the following year. His next big goal is to break back into the world’s top 50, having made it clear where he stands on LIV Golf earlier in the year by describing the millions of pounds being offered by Greg Norman’s breakaway circuit as “obscene money to be throwing at sport”.

The PGA Tour immediately suspended members who played in the inaugural event at Centurion Club near St Albans last month, with DP World Tour players taking the same step without an official release being fined £100,000 and also prohibited from teeing up in the Genesis Scottish Open.

“I’ve been sitting with the popcorn waiting to see what’s going to happen and I think it has come to a head now,” observed MacIntyre. “Everyone plays golf for a living and, once you get to a point where you’ve made a good living, then it becomes about winning trophies and making a name for yourself, at the end of the day.

“I’ve been listening to quite a lot of interviews from Rory McIlroy and, if there’s anyone I could follow in the footsteps of, I wouldn’t mind if it was Rory. Me and Stoddy (Iain Stoddart, MacIntyre’s manager) have spoken about it and, unless there’s a big u-turn, if you follow what Rory does, then you won’t be seen in a bad light.”

His guiding lights at home in Oban are mum Carole and dad Dougie. They’ll be proud parents at the 150th Open in particular, but, with contrasting outlooks when it comes to being spectators, don’t expect to see them too close together on the Old Course.

“I don’t know,” replied MacIntyre, chuckling, to being asked who he takes after in terms of temperament. “But the older I’m getting, the more I’m getting like my old man. They can’t watch me on the TV together. They can’t watch me at a golf course together. If I hit a bad shot, my dad thinks the world has ended. He won’t say that to me whereas my mum is like if you’ve shoot 80, she’ll say it could have been 81. That’s no use to me at times; I get more annoyed. But they are both brilliant. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

“Being at home in Oban means everything to me. I’m chilled out. I see my niece most days and play about with her. Nothing bothers her and that’s the way I want to live my life. Even if my golf isn’t the best at the moment, life is good. I’m enjoying myself, I’ve got a healthy family and they are happy. That’s all I can ask for.”

At which point, he offers a startling revelation when, in one final question, he’s asked to sum up what that stunning vista of one of the most beautiful spots in Scotland really means to him. “It’s funny as I am actually lying on the floor right now as I was stretching just before you called,” he declared. “I’m lying here looking out of my three windows and, apart from the woman who went in for a swim, there’s nobody on the beach.

"It’s perfect for the way I like to live life. It’s quiet. There’s no hassle and it’s the reason I live in Oban. It might change in the future, but for right now there’s nowhere happier for me than this wee spot.”

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