Without hitting a shot this year, the 24-year-old has climbed four spots to a career-best 51st in the global rankings due to how the points are worked out on a divisor basis, and he is now hoping a return to action in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the opening event of the new European Tour season, can accelerate that rise.
“Sitting at home with a beer in hand watching myself rise up the rankings was quite nice,” admitted MacIntyre, smiling, in a video call from the United Arab Emirates ahead of the $8 million Rolex Series event, which starts on Thursday. “If it kept going like that, I’d have my feet up in Oban right now.
“But we’re not just trying to get in the top 50 in the world. That is not my end goal. It’s just a stepping stone to where I want to be and, if I can crack that by March 25 (the next cut-off for the opening major of the year), I’ll be at the Masters.
“If not, I’ll only be 25 this year, so I have got plenty of years to be playing the Masters. But I’ve got a great chance this year, and, if I can do it, that would be great. And, if I keep playing the golf I have, why not?”
If it was down to MacIntyre, who landed his breakthrough European Tour win with victory in the Cyprus Showdown in November, he’d probably prefer talk of a possible Masters debut on the back of his appearances in The Open, US PGA and US Open over the past couple of seasons to be banned.
He knows, of course, that’s not going to happen, but, at the same time, is doing everything in his power to avoid putting himself under any unnecessary pressure during a big start to the new campaign, with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Saudi International also part of a three-event Middle East Swing.
“I’ve not looked at flights. I’ve not looked at accommodation,” he said in reply to a specific question about the Masters. “So, until I start looking at flights and accommodation, the Masters is not really on my mind.
“I started to click at the end of last year, but I am not really worried about the Augusta stuff. It’s a byproduct of good golf. If I keep improving year on year, even just by little bits, it will all take care of itself.”
In one of his typical quips, the left-hander added with another smile: “I am sitting here just now and thinking about what I am going to have for dinner later on is all that I am worried about.”
This week’s event, which is being headlined by Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas at Abu Dhabi Golf Club with its falcon-shaped clubhouse, marks the restart in earnest of Europe’s Ryder Cup qualification battle.
The points were frozen after the European Tour went into lockdown for a spell last year and a number of big events, including The Open at Royal St George’s, were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
MacIntyre sits 12th on a European points list and 17th on a world list, giving himself a solid platform in his bid to make Padraig Harrington’s 12-man team to defend the trophy at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September.
“It’s obviously been on the horizon, and I’m quite glad it was knocked back a year for me, physically,” he said of the biennial event having been delayed by 12 months due to the pandemic.
“It’s in my sights, but again I’ve got to play good golf. Everything will happen for me if I play good golf, it comes down to that. Every goal and everything people say is achievable. If I can keep playing the way I was playing at the end of last year, personally I think anything’s achievable.”
Twelve months ago, MacIntyre was forced to withdraw from the Abu Dhabi event due to a wrist injury that had been hampering him while, after landing his win in Cyprus, the former Scottish Amateur champion admitted that he’d struggled mentally during last year’s Covid lockdown. Both physically and mentally, he is now feeling tickety boo.
“I’ve not struggled much this time,” he said of the latest lockdown measures in Scotland. “In fact, I’ve not struggled at all this time. If you go through and struggle come out of it, I feel you are in a better spot for the next struggle.
“I’ve been able to play more golf this time whereas the last time you weren’t able to touch a golf club. I feel that when I get away to play golf, I feel I start enjoying myself more and start feeling the way I should be.
“Fitness-wise, when I came out here last year, my swing speed was really low. After my injuries, I hadn’t touched a club in 10 weeks. Now I feel great. My body feels great and I am moving well.
“I was working on a few things during the break and I’m in as good shape as I’ve ever been at the start of a season physically. It’s just a case of putting it on to the golf course now.
“I am still going to have competitive rust in getting back into it. But the game is starting to look better with some little tweaks here and there and I am just going to go out there and enjoy myself this week and see where we end up.”