Bob MacIntyre pips Matt Fizpatrick in play-off to win Italian Open

Bob MacIntyre landed his second DP World Tour title after holding off US Open champion Matt Fitzpatick and FedEx Cup winner Rory McIlroy in a thrilling final day in the DS Automobiles Italian Open.

Bob MacIntyre celebrates a birdie putt on the 13th hole in the final round of the DS Automobiles Italian Open at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Bob MacIntyre celebrates a birdie putt on the 13th hole in the final round of the DS Automobiles Italian Open at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

The 26-year-old from Oban signed off with a sensational seven-under-par 64 at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome - venue for next year’s Ryder Cup - to finish in a tie with Fitzpatrick on 14-under after the Englishman came home in 32 for a closing 67.

Both players birdied the par-5 18th to end up a shot ahead of Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perez (66), with McIlroy one further back after a 68 that included four birdies in the last six holes but also a costly bogey after finding water with his tee shot at the 16th.

After being put off by a noise near the 18th tee, Fitzpatrick pulled his drive at the first play-off into the rough and then pushed a 5-wood right of the green, meaning it was advantage MacIntyre as he followed a fine drive by then finding the apron with another confident blow in a pressure situation.

Matthew Fitzpatrick with his caddie Billy Foster during the final round of the DS Automobiles Italian Open at Marco Simone Golf Club. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Fitzpatrick’s pitch left him with a 12-footer, but he couldn’t convert that for a birdie, leaving MacIntyre to hole from around a foot to clinch his title triumph following a lovely chip.

“This means everything,” said a smiling MacIntyre of adding to his breakthrough win in the Cyprus Showdown in 2020. “I was down and out about two or three months ago - I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t know where to go.

“But we spoke to the right people and I started working with Simon Shanks. I mean, I’ve hit two perfect golf shots into the last there.

“There’s so much hard work gone into this. Mike [Thomson, his caddie], Stuart [Morgan, his performance coach], my family, my friends - absolutely everyone.

Rory McIlroy greets fans during the final round of the DS Automobiles Italian Open. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

“About three weeks ago, we started doing Decade (a course management system) with Scott Fawcett and we stuck to that to the absolute number the last couple of weeks. My approach play has gone up a notch and it’s showed today.”

MacIntyre, who started the day three shots behind overnight leader Fitzpatrick, burst out of the blocks by holing from 24 feet for an opening birdie before making a great par save from sand at the second.

As McIlroy, who was in the final group with Fitzpatrick and fomer Scottish Open champion Aaron Rai, opened with a double-bogey 6 that stemmed from a wayward tee shot, the Scot then produced an iron play masterclass on his outward journey.

His approach at the third was sent to nine feet for a second birdie of the day before a second shot from 187 yards was spun back to three feet at the fifth, moving him into a share of the lead with both Fitzpatrick and Perez on 10-under.

He was even closer with another approach that spun back nicely at the sixth and was even closer again with his tee shot at the short seventh after it landed at the top of a ridge and rolled down over a second one for a tap-in to make it three birdies in a row.

MacIntyre then made the most of a touch of good fortune, having been worried that his second shot at the eighth might be coming up short in the water but seeing it stick on a bank and getting up and down for a big par save.

Lady luck certainly looked to be shining on him when his tee shot at the ninth hit trees on the left but bounced out on the fairway side as opposed to water the other way and, after laying up, another laser-like approach set up another kick-in birdie.

That meant he was out in just 29 - the lowest front nine of the week - having taken just nine putts to give himself a two-shot lead over Perez and Rai at the turn, with Fitzpatrick a further shot back after reeling off nine straight pars and McIlroy one behind him.

Just off the fairway with his drive and then finding a back bunker, MacIntyre dropped his first shot of the day at the tenth and was then unable to convert a good birdie chance from around seven feet at the driveable par-4 11th.

In the group behind, Perez had also started his inward journey with a bogey but, after bouncing back with a 3 at the next, he was within one of the leader, though not for long.

MacIntyre found sand with his drive at the par-5 12th, meaning he had to lay up, but that didn’t stop him making a birdie as he rolled in ten-footer following another lovely approach shot, this time from just under 90 yards.

If that felt important, his eighth birdie of the day was even more so. Finding the top of a ridge again with his tee shot at the par-13th, his ball rolled down to 13 feet and a tricky left-to-right just caught enough of the hole.

That briefly gave him a three-shot cushion before Rai birdied the 11th, where Fitzpatrick finally made his first birdie of the day then came close to making an albatross at the next hole, where his second shot from 215 yards hit the flag when it looked as though it was going to drop straight in the centre of the hole.

The Englishman made no mistake with his eagle putt from no more than four feet and, with MacIntyre dropping a shot at the 14th after finding thick stuff off the tee and having to hack out, the pair were suddenly tied for the lead on 13-under.

Having repaired that first-hole damage with birdies at the fifth and ninth, McIlroy also got himself back into the mix with back-to-back gains at the 12th and 13th, moving him just two behind Fitzpatrick after a sore bogey for MacIntyre at the 15th.

He came up short with his approach but looked set to save par following a brilliant bunker shot, which he almost holed, only to then see his put from inside three feet agonisingly spin out of the hole.

The Scot found sand again with his tee shot at the driveable par-4 16th, but, after another tidy bunker shot, he found the centre of the cup on this occasion with a nine-footer for his ninth birdie of the round and celebrated moving back into a share of the lead with a little fist pump.

To the delight of the crowds, McIlroy moved within one as he made it three birdies in four holes by rolling in a 15-footer at the 15th, where Fitzpatrick did well to save par from eight feet after catching his second shot thin from a bunker and ending up on a bank through the green.

Just as it looked as though he was making an ominous move, McIlroy then carved his 3-wood tee shot into the water on the right of the 16th green, which he bemoaned with a shout of “what are young doing?”

A bogey there meant his race was run as Fitzpatrick birdied it to move one ahead of both MacIntyre and Perez after the Frenchman made a brilliant 2 at the 17th.

After hitting the longest drive of the day down the last, MacIntyre finished with a birdie to post the clubhouse target and, on 14-under, he was back in the lead again after a poor tee shot from Fitzpatrick saw him bogey the penultimate hole.

Perez was unable to convert a six-footer at the last to match MacIntyre’s tally but Fitzpatrick two-putted from more than 100 feet for his 4 to force the play-off.