“It was absolutely massive, for everything,” admitted MacIntyre of not only landing the DS Automobiles Italian Open on Sunday but also holding off US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and FedEx Cup winner Rory McIlroy to claim a second DP World Tour title. “For my season, looking forward to the Ryder Cup, everything. It was the place to do it.”
The 26-year-old stormed to the turn in 29 in the final round at Marco Simone Golf Club, venue for next year’s Ryder Cup, closed with a best-of-the-week 64 and beat Fitzpatrick with a birdie at the first extra hole in a play-off on the outskirts of Rome.
“The fashion I did it in may not have been pretty at times,” he said of dropping shots at the 14th and 15th just as Fitzpatrick was cranking up the heat in the final group, “but it was dogged and I got over the line.”
In doing so, he climbed from 110th to 68th in the Official World Golf Ranking and leapt to 15th from 73rd in the DP World Tour Rankings. In one fell swoop, a feeling of frustration for much of his season was replaced with excitement and optimism again.
“My game had been right there,” insisted MacIntyre, speaking as he looked forward to his next assignment, a debut at Le Golf National, venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup, in the Cazoo Open de France, which starts on Thursday.
“I was disappointed with my results during the stretch from Switzerland through to Italy. I knew good things were coming though, but it was just when. Thankfully, it was a big one that I won. I’ve been working like hell the last two months. I feel like it’s the most I’ve worked, the smartest I’ve worked and that’s thanks to the people around me.”
The left-hander landed his maiden title on the main tour in the 2020 Cyprus Showdown, but, with not only Fitzpatrick and McIlroy but also the likes of Viktor Hovland, Francesco Molinari and Tyrrell Hatton in the field, this latest triumph was on another level.
“It’s massive for my belief, confidence, everything,” he said of coming out on top in a gunfight with some of the top players in the game and being congratulated, both publicly and privately, by European captain Luke Donald for doing so. “When it went to that play-off, it’s a lottery. I’ve been in one before on the Challenge Tour with Victor Perez and it didn’t go my way, thankfully this one did.
“It’s just the belief it gives you. I knew I could compete with them, I just didn’t know if I could get it over the line when it went to the nitty-gritty bit, but I managed and it is such a relief that I did.”
After the opening two events in the Ryder Cup qualification battle, MacIntyre sits second behind Shane Lowry and McIlroy on the European points battle. Having just missed out on making Padraig Harrington’s team for the 2021 match at Whistling Straits, the Scot is determined to be back at Marco Simone in a playing capacity in a year’s time, but he is taking absolutely nothing for granted.
“Just play better, it’s as simple as that,” he replied to being asked what lesson he could learn from the last qualification campaign. “Last year the end of my season wasn’t good, it sort of trailed off. The enjoyment wasn’t there as much.
“But, since the refresh within the team (he’s now working with English coach Simon Shanks and has Stuart Morgan as a performance coach) it’s been really good. We’ve so much more belief around us.
“It’s just trying to make your good weeks better. At Wentworth (in the recent BMW PGA Championship), 40th place or whatever, it wasn’t good enough. Make your good weeks challenging for the title.”
Four DP World Tour titles have now fallen to Scots this season, with MacIntyre’s success coming on the back of two wins for Ewen Ferguson in his rookie campaign and a fourth victory on the circuit for Richie Ramsay. Grant Forrest and Calum Hill also landed maiden triumphs last season, with Connor Syme knocking on the door as well.
“It’s really good,” said MacIntyre, who had dinner on Tuesday night in Versailles with Finn Russell, the Scotland rugby stand-off who plays for French side Racing 92, of the current health of the Scottish game at the professional level. “It’s probably the strongest it’s been in a long, long time.
“There’s so many young guys. It’s not just the guys who have been on tour for years, there’s so many guys coming up. I think that’s down to the way we work. We get on well, we bounce off each other and, when guys are winning, a bit of jealousy kicks in and pushes you on for more.”
Earlier in the year, MacIntyre didn’t hold back when he was asked about LIV Golf. saying that he felt the millions of pounds being offered to play on Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed breakaway circuit was “obscene money to be throwing at sport”.
He wasn’t biting on this occasion, though, when LIV Golf was raised. “That’s not for me to decide or say anything about,” he replied to being asked if he felt LIV Golf players should be allowed to be on next year’s Ryder Cup. “I’m just here trying to make that Ryder Cup team by playing well and getting up the world rankings. Just leave it to the hierarchy.”
Fifty LIV Golf players signed a letter sent to Peter Dawson, chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking, calling for points to be awarded for events in the rebel circuit. “I’m a professional golfer and not a lawyer that can decide these things,” he said on that, “so I don’t worry about that at all.”
MacIntyre, who will be back on Scottish soil for next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, smiled when he was asked if he felt more comfortable facing journalists than his title-winning putt at the weekend. “This is easier, 100 per cent,” he declared. “That putt on Sunday, it had to be no more than three foot – but my hands were rattling!”