Bob MacIntyre relishes being 'thrown in at the deep end' on American odyssey

The bigger the better for Bob MacIntyre. “I love getting thrown in at the deep end,” he admits with a wry smile. “That’s when I feel like I play my best golf – when I’m fit and healthy and just get thrown right into the deep end.”

Bob MacIntyre and Justin Thomas shake hands after playing together in the third round of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Bob MacIntyre and Justin Thomas shake hands after playing together in the third round of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

In golf, the deep end, of course, is playing in majors, World Golf Championships and other big events. Over the next few weeks, MacIntyre is set to have all those on his plate as a reward for his recent breakthrough into the world’s top 50.

He’s teeing up next week in the WGC-Workday Championship in Florida, should get in both the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and also The Players Championship in the Sunshine State after that then has the WGC-Match Play in Texas.

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If he’s still in the top 50 the day after that finishes, the 24-year-old left-hander from Oban will be heading to Georgia for the first time in his life for a Masters debut at Augusta National in early April.

"You’ve just got to fight and work for everything. I enjoy it,” said MacIntyre of the attitude he will adopt heading into the biggest run of events of his fledgling career, which has already produced a top-10 finish in The Open, as well as playing in four rounds in both the US PGA and US Open after having his back against the wall.

“Being thrown in against the top players in the world, it makes you realise you can compete with them. I’ve seen it myself a few times now and I know I can compete with them. It’s just about going out there and letting it happen.”

Letting it happen has allowed MacIntyre to make a meteoric rise up the world rankings. This time three years ago, he was still waiting to play in his first Challenge Tour event but had graduated to the top tier at the end of the 2018 season.

He was crowned European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2019, landed his breakthrough win on the circuit in the Cyprus Showdown last November and now finds himself on Padraig Harrington’s radar for the rescheduled Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in September.

“I’m ahead of where I thought I would be, but not ahead of where I want to be,” declared MacIntyre, speaking, as he does in every single interview, as though he’s a seasoned campaigner. “I personally thought I’d be on the Challenge Tour for two years. Then, in the second or maybe third year, I’d be pushing for my European Tour card.

“Everything just happened so quickly. You’ve just got to ride the wave. Am I ahead of where I can be? No, I’m not ‘If I’d manage to get over the line a few more times, I could have won (more than once). I’m not sure how many runners-up finishes or top-threes I’ve had.

“If I’d manage to get over the line in those ones, I’d be in a completely different place. But it’s part of golf, you can’t win them all. I’m comfortable with where I’m at right now. This is just another step in the right direction for me in my career, but there’s a long way to go.”

MacIntyre, the current top-ranked left-hander in the game after climbing above both Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, has many admirable qualities, one of which is he has not changed in the slightest during his journey to becoming the poster boy of Scottish golf and, potentially, Scottish sport.

“I try and be myself,” he said. “Whether I’m out in the garden with the boys (two foster children in the family home on Oban) or you passed me, I try and act the exact same way as I do when I’m playing golf.

“It’s no different. I’m trying to enjoy myself. I do enjoy myself… maybe a little bit too much on the food side of things (laughing). I try and be me, it’s as simple as that. You’re not seeing any different side of me whether I’m on the golf course or whether I’m at home.

“The only different side you might see is when I’m on a shinty pitch. That’s when the adrenalin is really running high.”

MacIntyre isn’t even thinking about a possible Ryder Cup debut in Wisconsin. His first goal is to tie down that Masters spot, having given himself an excellent chance to fly the Saltire in the first major of the 2021 season along with 1988 winner Sandy Lyle and Martin Laird.

“‘I’m just trying to play golf and play as well as I possibly can,” he said of that upcoming US schedule. “I work hard at it. It’s not something that just comes by luck. I put the hours in.

“There’s a lot going on in the background that people don’t see. It’s not by luck that these things happen. It’s by hard work.

“I’ve looked up to so many guys over the years, Phil [Mickelson] being one of them. There are kids out there now who maybe look up to me. It’s about trying to put the right show on for them.

“I try and stay calm as much as I can. But you can’t be Mr Nice Guy all of the time. At the end of the day, it’s about trying to win golf tournaments. It’s about trying to be as good a player as possible – and sometimes you’ve got to be ruthless.”

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