Talk about it being tough at the top. Bob MacIntyre finishes joint 17th on his World Golf Championship debut, backs it up by claiming a share of seventh position in a Rolex Series event, picks up more than £200,000 in the process and yet still drops six spots to 13th in the Race to Dubai.
That will probably have left the young Scot feeling a tad deflated after he had kept his foot to the floor with the finishing line in sight in his first season on the European Tour, especially with American Kurt Kitayama having leapfrogged him to now lead the race for the Rookie of the Year Award in 11th position with only two events to go.
However, MacIntyre has absolutely nothing to be disappointed about as he heads into this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in South Africa before then moving on to Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship because, as last week’s Turkish Airlines Open illustrated, the 23-year-old from Oban has earned an army of admirers around the globe this season.
Put it this way, I can’t remember the last time a young Scot has set pulses racing in the golfing world as he has, an example of that being in the media centre at Montgomerie Maxx Royal, where South African, Indian and American colleagues, as well as those closer to home, purred over him without needing any prompting from a small tartan contingent covering the event in Belek.
While the results alone have made people sit up and take notice – that’s six top-ten finishes now, including one on his major debut while another two have been delivered in Rolex Series tournaments – it’s the way MacIntyre plays the game that is the root of him being widely regarded as one of the most exciting young prospects to grace the European circuit in the past decade or so.
As illustrated in his blistering back nine of 29 in his second-round 64 – the nine-under-par effort was his best as a professional – on the Mediterranean coast, the left-hander loves nothing more than taking dead aim at a flag, which, of course, is something that a certain Phil Mickelson has enjoyed doing throughout his career.
There are times when being so aggressive isn’t necessarily the best option, an example being in the final round on Sunday when, after pulling his tee shot into thickish rough at the par-4 seventh, MacIntyre decided to try to thread a shot through a tree only to catch a branch and, consequently, take a bogey at a time when being a bit more conservative would have served him better.
However, that sort of setback is all part of the learning process and we should bear in mind, after all, that he was just getting his professional career underway two years ago and, following a step up from the Challenge Tour 12 months ago, hasn’t yet clocked up 30 appearances on the European Tour.
Having been in the mix five times now on a final day this season, it is only natural that MacIntyre’s sense of mild disappointment is beginning to grow as that breakthrough win on the circuit eludes him, but, as he knows himself and is regularly reminded by coach Davy Burns – what a fantastic job he is doing, incidentally, both as a swing guru and psychologist – it is about trying to stay patient.
Winning at the top level in any sport is far from easy and, while Kitayama may already have two victories under his belt this year, it is interesting that two of the others involved in the six-man play-off in Turkey won under the floodlights by Tyrrell Hatton have both been knocking at that same door longer than MacIntyre without managing to open it.
Frenchman Benjamin Hebert, who, of course, lost to Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger in another play-off at this year’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, has played in 192 European Tour events but is still seeking a maiden title triumph, while Austrian Matthias Schwab, who now has ten top-10s to his name this season, is in the same position after 59 attempts.
Like both of them, MacIntyre would love to savour the sweet taste of success sooner rather than later and, having led the race, he would also love to become the first Scot since Marc Warren in 2006 to be crowned Rookie of the Year.
It’s about trying to carve out a prolonged career at the top level, though, and as much as he has another two huge events coming up, he will already be feeling excited about what lies ahead next season and beyond – and rightly so when you are the real deal.
Watch out for Calum Hill and Connor Syme joining MacIntyre in being in the mix for titles on the top circuit next season, too, after graduating from the Challenge Tour because they are a couple of class acts in the making as well.