Fighter Bob MacIntyre says WGC Match Play test is 'right down my alley'

Bob MacIntyre, who was thrilled to meet two-time major winner Sandy Lyle for the first time last week, would love to emulate his fellow Scot by tasting victory on American soil during his career.

Sandy Lyle and Bob MacIntyre pictured after bumping into each other as they were practising last week at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida. They are hopng to be reunited at The Masters in a fortnight's time. Picture: Bounce Sport

It’s a big ask for that to happen in this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Texas, especially as the 24-year-old will have to get the better of the game’s top-ranked player, Dustin Johnson, to advance from the round-robin phase.

MacIntyre, though, has quickly developed a great attitude at the highest level in the game of refusing to believe he’s not in with a chance at the start of a week and, to his credit, this one is not any different in his eyes.

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“I can’t wait for this. This is right down my alley,” he said ahead of his debut in the $10.5 million tournament, which starts on Wednesday. “Playing against the best players in the world, anything can happen.

“But it’s not as if you’ve got to beat the 72 or 74 guys. I don’t have to beat the whole field – I just have to beat them one at a time.

“There is no guide, no plan, just be aggressive, play my golf and see how it ends up when the match is done. When someone tells me to stop playing, that’s when it’s over.”

The left-hander from Oban enjoyed some of the best moments in his amateur career in the head-to-head format, including a title triumph in the 2015 Scottish Amateur Championship at Muirfield as he came from four down after 18 holes to beat Daniel Young on the last green.

He also reached the final of the Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl the following year before hammering Cameron Champ 6&4 in the first-day singles in the 2017 Walker Cup in Los Angeles then holding the emerging star in US golf at the time to a half in their rematch the next day.

“In one v one, anybody can beat anybody,” he added. “I’m going to play aggressive golf. If I hit form, why can’t I put in a good week? When the gun goes off on Wednesday, it’s time to fight.”

MacIntyre was speaking before it emerged that he was in the same group as Masters champion Johnson and two other PGA Tour winners in Kevin Na and Adam Long, but, as he said later, nothing has changed as far as how he intends approaching this week.

“It’s literally a dogfight day in, day out,” he said. “And I love this course. You could be four up with four to play and anything can still happen. It’s like the event I won in Cyprus, a different format where the final round felt like match play.

“With match play, you’re not worried about making cuts. I can go out here and make a 20 on one hole, or have four horrific holes and seven great holes – and you win.

“So give me that driver and it’s getting hit! You can’t worry about hitting a bad shot because a double or a triple only means losing one hole, with another 17 or more to make up for it.

“You’re not punished half as much as you are in stroke play, where you are out of the tournament if you make a triple bogey. I mean, I love stroke play. But it’s good to get a little change.”

This week, of course, is all about individual performances but, at the same time, you can bet your bottom dollar that both European captain Padraig Harrington and his US counterpart, Steve Stricker, will be keeping an eye on the event ahead of September’s rescheduled Ryder Cup.

“I’m sure they know all about my match play record from the amateurs,” said MacIntyre in reply to being asked if a good performance could boost his hopes of a rookie outing in Wisconsin.

“I feel like whatever Padraig Harrington does with his selection, I can’t control that. I can’t control what he does. I’m only able to control what me and the team around me do.

“I feel like we’re doing the right things. If we have one good week, it can snowball into another great season.”

Reflecting on his run of three events in the US, the latest of which was an early exit from the Players’ Championship at TPC Sawgrass, he added: "I haven’t played my best, but I know that, when I do, the results will come.

“I’ve been fighting every day on the golf course, not been at my game. But you can’t have it easy all the time.

“It takes a bit of time getting used to out here. It’s not plain sailing. There’s a comfort level back home in Europe, because I got comfortable pretty quickly, had some good results. Out here, I’ve yet to throw in a class result. Until that happens, I feel like I’ve got my Stars and Stripes to earn.”

Sitting 44th in the world rankings and needing to be inside the top 50 next Monday, MacIntyre is tantalisingly close to securing a place alongside 1988 winner Lyle - Martin Laird as well - in next month’s Masters and enjoyed bumping into his legendary compatriot last week.

“I literally turned up at the bottom of the range at Sawgrass,” he said, having stayed on at the Florida venue to work on his game before heading to Texas. “I was looking around a teeing area that’s about 100 yards wide.

‘We stopped the cart and I’m looking at this guy, thinking, ‘jeez, that guy looks a good player’. Then I saw the Saltire on the shoe and thought, ‘hang on, is that Sandy Lyle?’ We spoke a bit, just chatted about where we were from, life. I think he enjoyed that side of it. We’re just normal guys.”

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