Bob MacIntyre takes on 'Matt Kuchar backwards shot' at Sawgrass and holes it

Bob MacIntyre played with Matt Kuchar in one of his rounds in the WGC-Workday Championship a fortnight ago. Next time they’ll be able to compare notes about pulling off a shot played backwards at the iconic par-3 17th on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

A smiling Bob MacIntyre during the Golf in Dubai Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates last December. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.
A smiling Bob MacIntyre during the Golf in Dubai Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates last December. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.

Kuchar, one of the most experienced campaigners on the PGA Tour, was playing in the second round of the Players’ Championship at the Ponte Vedra Beach venue in 2015 when his tee shot came to rest close to a wooden sleeper on the narrow walkway that connects the island green with the rest of the course.

The American initially toyed with the idea of standing in a perilous position and hitting it right-handed before deciding to stand with his back to the hole and stab it one-handed, making a great job of it as he successfully found the putting surface.

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In contrast, it was just for a bit of fun that MacIntyre tried the same shot from the same spot during a practice round on Tuesday and, lo and behold, the young Scot holed it, surprising himself in the process and flashing one of those huge engaging smiles in celebration.

“Caught it a bit thin,” he said, providing his immediate reaction in a video interview at the side of the green for the PGA Tour. “It was going a bit too fast, but the pin was there to help us. Just holding it on the green is a good shot from there. You try and hole it and now and again you get lucky.”

The left-handed MacIntyre, of course, could have played the shot normally for him, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. “I’ve never hit that shot in my life. That’s the first time in my life,” he added.

“Kuchar showed us how to do it. I was the lucky one. I managed to hole it, but he did it in the heat of the battle. I wouldn't take that shot on ever. But, hey, you hole them now and again.”

The video, which was shared by MacIntyre and also the PGA Tour, has been watched by thousands of people as the 24-year-old has succeeded in making a name for himself in the US ahead of his debut this week in golf’s so-called fifth major.“You're standing there expecting me to hit this thing in the water, if I hit it,” he admitted, speaking on this occasion among a group of “first-timers” on the eve of the $15 million event. “It just came off a little bit thin, dead on line, and how it went in the hole, I don't know. It's just pot luck.”

MacIntyre wasn’t even born when Sandy Lyle landed his win in the Players’ Championship in 1987 - the year before he then became the first British player to claim the Masters.“I've seen footage of that,” he said of Lyle’s Sawgrass success. “Obviously Sandy is a legend back home. I'm just going to go out here and try and play good golf and, if we're in contention come Sunday, then we'll give it everything we've got.”

More recent winners have included Rory McIlroy, who, in actual fact, is the defending champion after last year’s event was called off following the opening round as the Covid-19 pandemic started to take its grip around the world.

“Rory's win the last time, the drive off 18,” said MacIntyre in recalling some of his memories from watching this event on TV back home in Oban. “He plays golf the way I love to see golf being played, and that's give it everything you've got, and if it's enough, it's enough. If it's not, well, back to the drawing board and come back the next week.”

MacIntyre, who sits 42nd in the world rankings and is tantalisingly close to securing his Masters debut next month, joins Martin Laird, a joint runner-up behind Kuchar in 2012, and Russell Knox in flying the Saltire in the strongest field so far this season.

“It's huge for me and my team,” said MacIntyre of playing on this particular stage. “We've worked hard every step of the way for this chance, and now we're here.

“It's part of the journey that I'm on, and it's been a fast and smooth progression through the ranks from Challenge Tour, European Tour, major events, and now obviously playing PGA Tour events. It's what I've dreamed of as a kid, and it's where we are now.”

It’s new test after new test for the Cyprus Showdown champion on his US trip and, buoyed by covering the last 10 holes in tough conditions in four-under in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last Sunday, he is feeling quietly confident about this week’s challenge.

“It's brilliant,” he said of Pete Dye’s creation. “It was like last week. If you play good golf, if you hit good shots, you'll be rewarded, hit bad shots you're going to be punished, and that's the sort of golf courses I like.

“If you drive it well out here, you've got a good chance of scoring well. If you don't drive it well, you've almost got no chance unless you're hitting it Bryson distances. I'm looking forward to the challenge. My game hasn't been there the last two weeks but we've managed to hang in there and score all right. That's what I do, just fight till the end.”

The start to this particular event for MacIntyre will be in the company of European No 1 and Ryder Cup legend Lee Westwood and the 2010 Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen.“Two great guys, and it's a perfect golf course for the two of them,” he said. “It's going to be nice to watch that, and hopefully we can build momentum from the get-go with those guys.”

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