He’s in the top 15 in the Race to Dubai in his rookie season and recently broke into the world’s top 100 for the first time. Oh, and what about the latest glowing endorsement of Bob MacIntyre’s impact in European golf? He’s among 20 up-and-coming players on a list compiled by Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington as the qualifying battle for the BMW PGA Championship gets underway today at Wentworth.
Over the coming months, Harrington and his newly-appointed vice captain, Robert Karlsson, aim to run the rule over the young players they believe can get in the mix for next year’s match at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, with MacIntyre having already made a favourable impact on the Irishman when they were paired in last month’s Omega European Masters in Switzerland.
“Very impressed. Really, really impressed with him,” said Harrington of the 23-year-old from Oban, who has recorded three second-placed finishes on the European circuit this season and also finished joint sixth in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush on his major debut. “I definitely liked his game, no doubt about it. I’d be very happy if he plays his way into my team.”
In the opening two rounds of this week’s Rolex Series event, Harrington is playing with Viktor Hovland, the 21-year-old Norwegian who is making his European Tour debut after posting his 17th straight round in the 60s on the PGA Tour on Sunday as compatriot Suzann Pettersen was holing the winning putt in the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.
“He really does look like a fine player and his play has been phenomenal,” observed Harrington of the leading amateur in both The Masters and US Open this season. “It looks like he belongs out here, which is the biggest key to a young rookie coming out on tour. If they look like they are caught in the headlights, they could disappear quickly, whereas Victor really does look like he’s here to play golf.”
The same applies to MacIntyre, who has been given the all clear to keep pushing on in the final few weeks of his sensational rookie campaign despite a wrist problem requiring an MRI scan since he finished runner-up in the Porsche European Open in Hamburg a week past Sunday.
“It’s playable,” he reported. “We are not broken, we are just bruised. It’s just from links turf. I was struggling at the Scottish Open tee to green. I battered balls for hours and they think that’s what caused it. It’s bruising of the bone. I’m fine. I’m taking the odd painkiller. It’s not something that’s going to break on me. I’ll take it easier in practice days, but not in tournaments. It’s pain. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve had some sore hits on the shinty pitch. A bit of pain in the hand won’t bother me.”
Neither does the fact he is making his debut in this event in arguably its strongest-ever field, with 20 of the world’s top 50 in the line up, with a star-studded cast being headed by second-ranked Rory McIlroy, Open champion Shane Lowry and American duo Patrick Reed and Tony Finau.
“That’s the name of the game,” replied MacIntyre to being asked if he felt a win is possible this weekend. “This is as strong a field as there’s been, but I’m still going out to win.It’s just about being ready and doing the things you need to do. It depends what Bob turns up. If he’s striking it well then it (the course) will suit. If we’re not, then it’s going to be tough. Driving it well and long irons will be key. You dream of these events, but now you’re here it’s your job and you have to get on with it.”
And the Ryder Cup, qualifying for which will end at the same event in 12 months’ time? “I’ve got my own goals and the Ryder Cup is a by product of that,” said MacIntyre, who is flying the Saltire at the Surrey venue along with Russell Knox, Stephen Gallacher, David Law, Scott Jamieson, David Drysdale, Richie Ramsay and Paul O’Hara, who secured his spot through the PGA Play-Offs.
“If I reach all my goals then you never know. It’s not one of the main goals just now, I’m juts focussing on doing the right things with my game. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s obviously working so why change it. I want to stick to what I know and work on the things I need to and build on what I have. Building the result in Germany is the key now.”