Sam Torrance, a former European Tour Rookie of the Year, unwittingly helped Bob MacIntyre get back on track in his bid to land that prize this season by dishing up a night of laughter to take the young Scot’s mind off an untimely bad day at the office.
Torrance, fellow Ryder Cup player Ken Brown and broadcaster Dougie Donnelly all joined MacIntyre and his manager Iain Stoddart for dinner on Friday night during last week’s Nedbank Challenge, the penultimate event of the European Tour season, at Sun City in South Africa.
The unplanned get-together took place shortly after MacIntyre had finished his second round with a quadruple-bogey nine – he dumped two balls in the water on the ninth hole at the Gary Player Country Club – to leave American Kurt Kitayama in pole position to claim that Rookie of the Year accolade.
The time around the table listening to his fellow Scots tell tale after tale from their golfing and TV careers helped put a smile back on MacIntyre’s face, though, and, thanks to superb closing scores of 65-68 securing a seventh top-10 finish of the season, he moved back in front of his main rival in the Race to Dubai rankings.
“It was absolutely brilliant,” said the 23-year-old from Oban of spending time with Torrance, the Rookie of the Year in 1972, Brown and Donnelly, the trio having been part of the World Feed commentary team in South Africa.
One of the boys
“The state of mind I was in when I came off the golf course was not good and, though my head was clear by the time I went to dinner, to listen to some of the stories they had from their time on tour was brilliant. I thought travelling for me was tough at times, but it is easy compared to some of the journeys they had to make.
“They didn’t treat me any differently. They just treated me as one of the boys. It was normal chat and was just what I needed, especially after the way I’d played on Friday. It was a bit of a reality before getting back down to playing golf the next day.”
Bidding to become the 11th Scot to claim the newcomers’ title but first since Marc Warren in 2006, MacIntyre leads Kitayama, a 26-year-old Californian who has won twice this season, by 90.6 points heading into the season-ending £7.25 million DP World Tour Championship, which starts on Thursday over the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
“It would mean a lot if I could win it,” said MacIntyre of an award that bears Sir Henry Cotton’s name, with recent recipients having included Brooks Koepka (2014) and Jon Rahm (2017). “It would be another reward on the list. It is in my control on one hand but, on the other, it is also out of my control. If Kurt goes out and wins it, then hats off to him.
“But, if I go out and hit every shot the way I want to, then it might take care of itself. But I am not going to get ahead of myself. I’ve got the first tee shot to hit on Thursday morning and that’s all I am really worrying about just now.
“I’ve got to take care of myself, first and foremost. I feel as though I’ve been getting ahead of myself a bit due to the fact I’ve probably been thinking too much about landing that breakthrough win.
“You know what, I’m a great believer in the saying ‘it won’t miss you if it’s for you’ and I am just going to commit 100 per cent to every shot this week and, if it’s this week then great. If not, we’ll have another 30 events next year.”
Helped by three second-place finishes, MacIntyre has climbed to 69th in the world rankings and is determined to end his campaign on a high, especially with his mum and dad, Carol and Dougie, among a sizeable Oban contingent out here in the United Arab Emirates.
“My best mate is also out and a few of the other boys from Oban are coming out as well,” he said. “I like it when I have family around. I went to dinner with them on Monday night and my mind is off golf, which is the way I want it. It is going to be good fun and hopefully I can put on a good performance for all of them.”
Support from whole of Argyll & Bute
Twelve months after being among four Scots to graduate from the Challenge Tour, MacIntyre is flying the Saltire alone in this week’s event, which has the biggest first prize in golf of £2.7 million up for grabs.
Up against players with a lot more experience of this course, he’ll have to play out of his skin to be in contention for that whopping pay day on Sunday, but, based on how he’s played in other big events this year, he has done exactly that time and again this season.
“It’s got to be The Open,” he said in reply to being asked to pick out the highlight of his season, having tied for sixth place behind Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush on his major debut in July.
“To do that in my first major was brilliant. There was no pressure on me, the only pressure was coming from myself.
“It was a time to see how well I could do competing on the world stage and it felt like I could do that, which is satisfying in all ways.
“The British Masters [in which he finished joint second at Hillside in May] was a turning point. I was meant to be going out to China, but I took the week off. On the Friday of Morocco, I phoned up Stodds [the aforementioned Iain Stoddart] and told him that my head wasn’t right and I didn’t want to be on a golf course.
“I went home, done a couple of things, including picking up a shinty stick, and came back at the British Masters wanting to play golf and wanting to compete. If there’s a way I want my mental state to be, it’s happy but also hell of a determined when I step on that first tee.
“I want to fight to the end and that’s how I felt at the British Masters. In fact, it was probably the best mental state I’ve ever been in. I was like a different man.”
Asked how many people back home will be hitting the refresh button on the European Tour website as they keep track of the scoring in Dubai, he smiled before replying: “Plenty and not just in Oban. The whole of Argyll & Bute have been very supportive, from Oban all the way down to Machrihanish. It’s all of Scotland now, really.
“I look at messages on Twitter and you think, ‘people are noticing you here and liking what they are seeing’. I have just got to keep doing what I have been doing and see where we go.”
• Turkish Airlines fly daily to Dubai via Istanbul with golf clubs flying for free. Check out turkishairlines.com