Ten months after being an unknown quantity on his previous visit to Dubai to try and qualify for the Omega Desert Classic, Bob MacIntyre left the UAE yesterday with praise ringing in his ears, having ticked one of the toughest boxes of the lot by being identified as “one to watch” by the European Tour old guard.
Hot on the heels of Olympic champion Justin Rose saying he believes the newly-crowned Rookie of the Year has a “brilliant journey ahead of him”, Thomas Bjorn and Sergio Garcia also weighed in with warm words about MacIntyre on the back of him finishing 11th in the Race to Dubai as a newcomer to the circuit.
“It’s been very hard not to be impressed by what Robert has achieved this year in his first full season on the tour,” said Bjorn, a 15-time winner on the circuit before leading Europe to a resounding Ryder Cup victory in France last year.
“Robert has just played so well that every senior player who played against him this year would have noted that air of experience about him and, with that, players are walking from the course saying to themselves: ‘This is one player to watch’. It takes a lot for these particular older players to say that, but then that just shows there is some strength in Robert and there have been so many players taking note of what he has been achieving this year, and that’s just remarkable.”
The 23-year-old from Oban racked up seven top-10 finishes, including one on his major debut in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, to beat two double winners, American Kurt Kitayama and Italian Guido Migliozzi, in the Sir Henry Cotton rookie race.
“I’ve watched him myself and there is something special about him,” added Bjorn, who was part of the World Feed commentary team at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where MacIntyre tied for 14th to take his season’s earnings to more than €2 million.
“It was a great to see Bob and Kurt going at it over the last few events of the year. I look back to when I had that ‘thing’ between myself and Padraig [Harrington] as we seemed to be going after each every season. That rivalry or whatever you want to call it sets you up for something you have to get used to as you are going to have players you will tend to meet all throughout your career.”
Garcia used his success in winning Rookie of the Year exactly 20 years ago as a springboard to become a Masters champion, winner of 35 titles worldwide and the most successful player in Ryder Cup history. “To win the Rookie of the Year is really amazing,” said the Spaniard, also speaking at Jumeirah Golf Estates. “That is how I felt back in 1999 and I know Robert will now be thinking the same as I did.
“Being Rookie of the Year is something you will always treasure and it shows how good a start you had to your career. Everyone out here knows how tricky and difficult a first year out here on whether it is the European Tour, the PGA Tour or the Asian Tour.
“For Robert to win it is something he can be very proud of. He’s played amazing all year and he’s been very, very steady and consistent all year. You can only have one shot at winning Rookie of the Year. It’s a one go, one attempt only and there are not many players out here who can say they have achieved that in their career.
“As well, you could have had a good amateur career but once you turn pro and take that big step you don’t know how well you are going to perform, so there’s that huge uncertainty as you are virtually starting from scratch.”