Scottish Open: Bob MacIntyre 'on his guard' after being tracked and traced
Forget about ‘out of bounds’ for the moment. ‘Tracked and traced’ have become the three words every top golfer dreads to hear just now. Just ask Bob MacIntyre after he heard that uttered in a phone call a week past Sunday.
“I didn't know if it was a joke or not,” admitted the young Scot, speaking as he prepared to be part of the event’s strongest-ever field in this week’s abrdn Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian “But I waited about ten minutes and then phoned Stoddy, my manager. I said, I think I've just been tracked-and-traced’."
He had, indeed, from a flight back from the US Open in California, meaning that a plan to return to action in last week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet after a week at home had to be scrapped.
“We had to just take it on the chin,” said MacIntyre. “I think it was four days to isolate, done that, got tested, negative again, and just go about it again. It's been a bit of a mad scramble the last couple days trying to get myself ready. But it's all part of the game just now and part of travelling life and you have to get set when you get hit with it.”
Jon Rahm, of course, wasn’t hindered too much by finding himself in Covid-19 isolation before landing his major breakthrough in that US Open at Torrey Pines. Like the new world No 1, who spearheads the field on his Scottish Open debut this week, MacIntyre is taking every precaution he can to ensure he can also tee up in next week’s 149th Open at Royal St George’s.
“Pretty simple,” said the Oban man of the steps he will be taking. “Don't travel with anyone. Don't be around anyone. I was meant to go (down to Kent) on the charter flight down, but I'm not even doing that.
“I'm going to jump that car and drive down, simple as that. I've got to take no risk now, unless I test positive, unluckily from whatever, filling up the car, but again, you sanitise after I do that just now.
“Once you get hit with a bit of bad luck, you're always on your guard. I've just got to keep myself to myself and just don't do something stupid.”
Because of having to adopt that attitude, a PlayStation is his new best pal. “It's tough,” he said of changes he’s had to make in life at home during the pandemic. “If I've got two weeks off and I've done my isolation, some of my pals are like, are you coming for dinner and whatnot one night?
“It's like, no, I'm not doing it because it's not worth the risk. You can't. Just now for me with big events, I'm not risking what I can gain from my job with just going and grabbing a meal. I'd rather have one of the boys around for a meal at the house rather than go to a restaurant. I'm not the best cook, but it's hard to burn a steak.”
MacIntyre, who is making just his third appearance in the Scottish Open, has been paired with European No 1 Lee Westwood and 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa in the opening two rounds at The Renaissance Club.
“My own expectations are zero,” insisted the world No 51. “I'm here to play golf and enjoy myself like every week. Obviously I've got my standards. I'm not coming here not to try and win a golf tournament. Everyone that's in the field is trying to win.
“But, outside of that, what am I expecting from the week? I don't know. I just take what I'm given. I've put in the work. I'm still putting in the work. Try not to get in your own way and get on with it; it's as simple as that.”
A strictly-limited attendance has been allowed for the Rolex Series event, making it the first big event to be played in front of fans in Scotland since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October 2019.
“This is probably going to be the first event I've played in in Europe that's had fans since Qatar a year ago, so it's going to be brilliant,” said MacIntyre, who spearheads an 11-strong home contingent in the event’s third successive visit to the Tom Doak-designed course.
“Especially being on home turf, they are hopefully going to support and help me look for golf balls (laughing). It's going to be brilliant. The Scottish Open, no matter what's going on, is always good for us Scots and it's going to be brilliant with fans back again.”
As things stand, MacIntyre, who is exempt from finishing joint-sixth on his debut at Royal Portrush in 2019, is the only Scot heading to Kent for the season’s final major, though three spots are up for grabs through the Scottish Open and another one in a Challenge Tour event in France.
“It's tough,” said MacIntyre of securing spots in the game’s biggest events, having flown the Saltire along with just Martin Laird in the three majors so far this year. “It's not easy to get in and I don't know if I would get in world ranking-wise in the last few weeks.
“Obviously, a lot of guys didn't go and try and qualify through the qualifiers because it clashed with Ireland, one of the best events on Tour, and you can see why they didn't go and try that way, and that's where a lot of guys did qualify (in the past). But there's spots this week, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone or a couple of guys get it this week.”
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