It wasn’t to be for tartan trio Bob MacIntyre, Scott Jamieson and Richie Ramsay in their bid to enjoy some Turkish delight, but they all boarded a charter flight heading from Antalya to Johannesburg for the penultimate event of the European Tour season with positive vibes.
Not for the first time in the 2019 campaign, pride of place among the Scots on the circuit went to MacIntyre in the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open as the 23-year-old from Oban chalked up a sixth top-ten finish in his rookie year.
Admittedly, a share of seventh spot wasn’t what he had been looking for after starting out in joint second on another idyllic day at Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Belek, but it was another round when the left-hander showed his class by salvaging a sub-par score.
“I played terribly today, it’s as simple as that,” said MacIntyre, reflecting on a three-under 69 to finish with an 18-under 270 total, ending up two shots outside a six-man play-off. “I didn’t have a good warm-up, I struggled a bit, but we’ll take this finish. I putted superbly today. If the putter wasn’t there it was a 77 or 76.
“But it was there and to walk out of there three under, I’m sure the boys I was playing with [Patrick Reed and Ross Fisher] would have been shocked that I got it round in that. But that’s where my golf is at the moment, we are flying high.”
After picking up two birdies in the opening three holes having set out three shots behind overnight leader Matthias Schwab, MacIntyre had closed the gap and sat second on his own before finding water with his approach at the par-5 fourth, where Eddie Pepperell had run out of balls on Saturday and was disqualified from the Rolex Series event as a consequence.
“I just mishit it,” said MacIntyre of that setback. “I put the 5-wood in after the first day as I knew that every par 5 was the same number. I think they are almost the same length. It’s a perfect 5-wood, just float one up. But I caught it heavy. It was just a bad shot and that stalled all the momentum. If we got going there, we were on to one, but these things happen.”
Heading into the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, MacIntyre has a fight on his hands to become the first Scot since Marc Warren in 2006 to be crowned as Rookie of the Year after American Kurt Kitayama jumped above him in the Race to Dubai by finishing joint second here.
“It’s heating up,” admitted MacIntyre. “But I’ve thrown in a top ten and he’s [Kitayama] has played unbelievably well. For me, it’s just a case of keep doing what I’m doing and keep pushing into the top five [in the rankings]. I’ll go to Sun City, where I’ve never been before, with a free mind. The golf has been trending for a wee while. Hopefully it will turn.”
Picking up big cheques – he pocketed £126,000 for this effort – is becoming a nice habit for the young Scot. “But I’d really like the win to give me that few years’ exemption,” he admitted. “We are playing unbelievably well. It’s more consistent than I thought I could get. My golf as an amateur was up and down, either miss the cut or challenge. It was the same on the Challenge Tour. But for me to throw in rounds like this when I’m playing poorly is more satisfying than playing well.”
After signing for a closing 69 to finish joint tenth on 16 under par, it was mission accomplished in the short term for Jamieson as he secured his spot in the Sun City field, having been just outside the cut-off coming into this event.
“I played well today and it’s been a good week,” said the Florida-based Glaswegian. “I know sitting back on the flight tonight I can look back on the week here in Turkey very pleased. I was a different guy off the tee than I have been all season.
“I hit a beautiful high draw off the last tee and that is an example of a shot I have not been able to hit all year. I wasn’t actually planning for that under that pressure. It was good too to get those juices flowing strongly again being in one of the last few groups on a Sunday as it has been some time.”
Ramsay, who also started the day in the top 15 after a joint best of the day 64 on Saturday, had the wind taken out of his sails when finding water with his tee shot at the par-3 fifth and then three-putting for a costly six. That left him having to settle for a disappointing closing round of 73 and a share of 32nd when he had a top ten in his sights.
“Golf will drive you bananas as it is a game of inches and, because of that, I had a four-shot swing over a couple of holes,” said the Aberdonian. “I had a little chat coming down 18 with Guy [Tilston, his caddie], who is very upfront and experienced, and he said, ‘you know what, you haven’t played badly today’ and I am trying to tell myself that.
“You look at the score and it might suggest otherwise, but I just didn’t hole anything and missed two four-footers and just hit one bad shot. I don’t think I could have driven it any better. I was pretty much in the middle of every fairway bar 10, where I got a bad bounce. It’s not how good your best golf is; it’s how good your bad golf is and I need to shoot one under or thereabouts on a day like that.
“Yes, it is a missed opportunity and it is very frustrating, but I am driving it long and straight, my irons are good and I hit a lot of good putts. There’s a ton of positives and I am trying to stay patient because I feel I could go and win next week.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.”