The Open: Bob MacIntyre feels 'something is going to happen very soon'

Even in the heat of battle on his major debut in the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush, Bob MacIntyre was able to soak up the atmosphere and see that he wasn’t the only one enjoying himself.

Bob MacIntyre tees off on his Open debut at Royal Portrush in 2019, when he tied for sixth. Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images.

As he occasionally scanned the faces of family and friends in the crowd on the Antrim coast, the Oban man could tell that he was creating special memories for not just himself.

“I had family and friends there that week and it was chilled out, the way I love it,” said MacIntyre in reply to being asked to pick out the highlight from the week as he produced a brilliant performance to finish joint-sixth behind Shane Lowry.

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“I play the game for my own enjoyment, but the main reason I play is to give other people enjoyment and to get to see the joy I put on other people's faces. It was (then caddie) Greg's at the time.

Bob MacIntyre shares a laugh with Greg Milne, his caddie at the time, and coach David Burns during a practice round at Portrush two years ago. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

“That's the reason I do it, at Portrush I holed that putt on 18 and the cheer went up, that's the reason I play golf, it's the only reason.”

That exact thought was on MacIntyre’s mind as he lined up a birdie putt on the final green on Sunday in the abrdn Scottish Open as he battled it out with Richie Ramsay to finish as the leading home player at The Renaissance Club.

“I looked at the leaderboard and saw where Richie was, so I'm thinking, let's do this, let's do it for everyone, the cheer that'll go up,” he added.

Though he was unable to raise that on this occasion and was pipped by Ramsay for the the Jock MacVicar AGW Memorial Award, MacIntyre is in good fettle heading into his second Open assignment at Royal St George’s this week.

“I'm playing great,” said the 24-year-old left-hander, who is the sole Scot in the game’s oldest major on this occasion, with 1999 champion Paul Lawrie who was also on the exempt list, having decided to skip the trip to Kent before a probable farewell in the 150th staging at St Andrews.

“When I go to America, I don't seem to be playing much. I always have a week off leading up to events, so it's kind of hard because you have to get over there and you have to travel, so I'm playing good golf.

“I'd love to have had a week prior to the Scottish Open to really get the competitive edge back,” he said of having had to sit out the Irish Open at Mount Juliet due to being contact traced from a flight back from the US Open at Torrey Pines.

“But you’re dealt the cards, we take them and get on with it, I'm playing good, something's going to happen very soon, hopefully it'll happen this week.”

MacIntyre opened with a 68 two years ago before closing with the same score. “It was a big buzz back then, I was shaking a little bit,” he admitted.

“I'm still going to be nervous on the first tee, even on the 18th tee. But I know what uncomfortable feels like and it's part of the game.”

Buoyed by that effort at Portrush, MacIntyre has now made the cut in all six majors he’s played in, his big-stage performances in the interim having included a tie for 12th on his Masters debut in April.

Having been crowned as the European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2019 then landing his maiden breakthrough win on the circuit in last season’s Cyprus Showdown, he has quickly adapted to taking big challenges in his stride.

“Cmpared to the field at the Scottish Open, there's only a select few more next week,” he said of the event in East Lothian having attracted its strongest-ever cast led by world No 1 and US Open champion Jon Rahm.

“Nothing changes in my attitude, other than belief. I feel so comfortable out here competing against these guys, I feel like my game will hold up against them.

“I proved it, not just to you guys but to myself, at the WGC Match Play (in Texas, where he topped a group that included the then world No 1 Dustin Johnson. “So this is the best I've felt, even after a disappointing finish to last week.”

Sandy Lyle, of course, delivered Scottish success at Sandwich in the 1985 Open. As he bids to emulate his compatriot, MacIntyre certainly doesn’t need to be using the practice days to acquaint himself with the Kent course.

“I must have played it 10 times now,” he revealed. “In the 2017 British Am, I got to the last 16 maybe. I know the quirks within reason, I'm not going to take my book, I wasn't as clever back then!

“We didn't go at it all the time. I've spoken to a fair few guys who've said it's slightly softer which is a good thing around there. A lot of fairways camber off the side, so I'm looking forward to holding a few fairways.”

While MacIntyre will be in a bubble this week with caddie Mike Thomson and coach David Burns, mum Carol and dad Dougie will be among those cheering him on among the 32,000 spectators being allowed on the championship days.

“The whole family will be done and we’ll see what going on,” he said before adding with a smile as wide as the English Channel: “If we're going well, Oban will empty.”

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