Bob MacIntyre 'optimistic' about playing in Dubai Desert Classic

Bob MacIntyre, the Scottish No 1, is "optimistic" about playing in this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic after feeling no pain as he tested out his troublesome hand injury today at Emirates Golf Club.

Bob MacIntyre is hoping to tee up in this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic after being forced to miss last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship due to a hand injury

The 23-year-old, who pulled out of last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship due to the niggling problem, played six holes without feeling any hindrance and is set to make a final decision after seeing how it feels over 18 holes in tomorrow's pro-am.

"I'm feeling optimistic," MacIntyre, who is due to be among eight Scots in the field for the $3.25 million tournament, told The Scotsman on the practice range at the Majlis Course. "I played six holes today. I've got a bit of work still to do and then I will make a decision.

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"I will try and play the pro-am tomorrow. If all is well in the morning, then that should be okay and then I will make a decision about the tournament after that."

The left-hander, who finished 13th in last season's Race to Dubai as he became the first Scot to be crowned as European Tour Rookie of the Year since 2006, added: "I had literally done nothing in the time I've been here since leaving Abu Dhabi. I was told not to touch a club and take my time.

"Even today, I did a warm up that wasn't too stressful then only played six holes. It was good to test it.

"I've got a bit strapping on my wrist to support it. If anything, it is more mentally. It it feels strong in my head, that is a good thing, so I will do that every day."

MacIntyre, who recorded seven top-10 finishes last season, including one on his major debut in The Open at Royal Portrush, was disappointed to miss last week's Rolex Series event in the UAE, where he had been due to make his first start of the 2020 campaign.

However, he insisted that had been the right decision after discovering that a complete six-week break from golf at the end of last season hadn't cleared up the problem.

"On the first day of a training camp out here after my long break, I didn't have to take any painkillers. I thought, 'brilliant, we are on to a winner here'," said the former Scottish Amateur champion.

"I didn't put any stress on it, having only put in two or three hours' practice, but I woke up the next day feeling a bit of ache and pain.

"I thought that was just down to not having done anything for six weeks and I put in another day of light practice.

"But I then woke up the next day and I was like, 'this is back to square one, if not worse than what it was feeling towards the end of last year'.

"I tried to do a bit of practice through it but when I got to Abu Dhabi I simply couldn't swing it like I need to.

"My driver was so slow, my irons were all over the place. I was hitting an 8-iron into a par 3 to a pin on the right side and I missed it on the left so I missed the pin by 25-30 yards.

"I was thinking to myself at that point, 'I'm going to shoot 78 or 79 and miss the cut' and I decided then that I had to pull out. I knew I couldn't do myself justice and that's why I took the difficult decision to withdraw in Abu Dhabi."

Needing to break into the top 50 by the end of March to secure a debut alongside former winner Sandy Lyle in The Masters, MacIntyre has slipped three spots to 67th in the world rankings since the end of last year.

However, he is prepared to take a lengthy break if surgery is required, though two MRIs, the most recent one in Dubai last week, have not shown up anything in particular to be concerned about.

"I don't want to have this for the rest of my life. I want to be fit and healthy and pain-free," he said "Listen, at the end of the day, if I had a year out, if I played well when I came back, I would probably be in the same spot in the world rankings.

"If you play good golf in any given year, you are going to shoot up the world rankings, as I discovered last season.

"Now I'm now worrying about the world rankings at the moment. I just want to get fit and healthy and, once that is the case, I can go out and play my best golf."

Bernd Wiesberger, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open champion and a big fan of MacIntyre after they fought out a ding-dong battle in the Made in Denmark event last year, spoke at the weekend of the importance of the problem being healed once and for all.

The Austrian was offering advice as he reflected on missing seven months of the 2018 season after undergoing wrist surgery before returning to win three times last year, including two Rolex Series events.

"There's a lot of people out there who care for me, which is nice to know," said MacIntyre. "I've had some guys saying to me to feel free to ask for advice if I want it. It's been some guys who've had injuries themselves and that's been nice of them.

"Everyone has been wanting to know how I am, but, at the end of the day, I just need to worry about me, not anyone else. I just want to be out there competing as that's what I thrive on."

If he comes through that pro-am without any concerns, MacIntyre will join two-time winner Stephen Gallacher, Paul Lawrie, Scott Jamieson, Richie Ramsay, David Law, David Drysdale and Grant Forrest in flying the Saltire in the Dubai event.

"It's certainly tougher out here than I thought it was on TV," said MacIntyre of the Majlis Course. "They seem to have grown the rough and it's as thick as I've ever played in."Hopefully I'll be able to play on Thursday and, if I can keep it on the fairway, then I wouldn't need to worry about the rough."