Tommy Fleetwood reckons Bob MacIntyre has the qualities to become a European Tour winner after watching from close quarters as the young Scot produced a sensational finish to claim a share of second spot in the Betfred British Masters.
Playing in the same group as the tournament host in the final round at Hillside, the 22-year-old left-hander from Oban followed an eagle at the par-5 17th with a birdie at the last to end up just one shot behind the winner, Swede Marcus Kinhult.
It was MacIntyre’s best performance in his rookie season on the main circuit after graduating from the Challenge Tour last year, lifting him around 60 spots to 36th in the Race to Dubai and also up to 191st – a rise of 78 places – in the world rankings.
“He did great, didn’t he, especially on the last few holes,” said Fleetwood as he reflected on MacIntyre bouncing back from a double-bogey 7 at the second hole in the final round to sign off with a four-under 68 to pick up a cheque for around £225,000 as he ended up alongside defending champion Eddie Pepperell and four-time tour winner Matt Wallace.
“He played the second hole bad but, apart from that, he’s done great. He hit some cracking shots. I didn’t even see his second shot into 17 (a majestic 5-wood from 231 yards to three feet that was also missed by the TV cameras), but I’m sure it was a corker from where it ended up.
“The way he played 18 was brilliant,” added Fleetwood of the Glencruitten player hitting a 6-iron from 203 yards to five feet then confidently rolling in the putt. “The golf shots are great but, from also speaking down the fairway, he knows his game really, really well, and I think that 18th hole, knowing exactly what to do when he was there and he knew how to play the hole and he knew his game, that will stand him in really good stead.”
That view was echoed by experienced caddie Ryan McGuigan, who was also in the penultimate group at the Southport venue as his current boss, talented young Belgian Thomas Detry, made up the three-ball that had a huge crowd following it in Fleetwood’s hometown.
“I was really impressed with how Bob handled himself all day, especially after his seven at the second,” said McGuigan, who had a spell on Stephen Gallacher’s bag. “As good as his golf was, his attitude was even more impressive. He genuinely looked like he enjoyed playing in front of the big crowd and being in that situation.
“The strongest part of his game yesterday was his accuracy off the tee, the only time I remember him being out of position was the second. He gave himself a lot of opportunities because he was hitting from the fairway, he wasn’t having to negotiate flying lies from the rough.”
MacIntyre, who secured his step up to the main circuit along with Grant Forrest, Liam Johnston and David Law at the end of last season, has Greg Milne, a young Irishman and also a rookie on the European Tour, on his bag and the pair are working well together.
“It looks like Bob has developed a great relationship with Greg,” added McGuigan. “I don’t know Greg that well but he did a great job for Bob on Sunday. Their strategy was spot on all day. He was aggressive when he had to be and held back off the tee with irons at the right times, too. Both of them seemed at ease in the situation and I am sure it won’t be long before they enjoy their first victory together.”
With Richie Ramsay also finishing fifth on his own, it was another great week for Scottish players. David Law and Stephen Gallacher have led the way with wins in the Vic Open and Hero Indian respectively, while there have now been eight top-five finishes by players flying the Saltire and 13 top-10 finishes.
“It’s a massive week for Bob,” said Ramsay as he added his voice to the chorus of praise for his young compatriot. “It’s huge. It takes a lot of pressure off. He could’ve finished par-par but eagle-birdie changes everything. It makes a huge difference. It will buy a few drinks, I’m sure.
“I’ve always wanted the Scottish guys to do well. They are there to perform and it’s another person to beat. If you don’t do well then you want the other Saltires up there. We have a good group now.”
Ramsay, a three-time tour winner, reckons part of the credit for that is down to Bounce Sport co-founder Iain Stoddart, who now manages not only MacIntyre but also Forrest and Johnston after helping them gain valuable experience of playing on the Challenge Tour when they were still in the amateur ranks.
“Stoddy has done a great job to get them opportunities and helping them to get money. If you don’t have chances and money, then it’s very very tough to get a foothold,” added Ramsay.
“I got help through someone I met through caddying not through anyone else. That got me the foothold and it makes a difference. Bob finishes like that today and now he is in a great position on the Race to Dubai. The other boys have had solid weeks. They are all vying to be up there and that’s good. It pushes everyone on.”