Martin Dempster: Bob MacIntyre could be man to fill Andy Murray’s void

Maybe, just maybe, Andy Murray’s successor as Scotland’s global sporting ambassador is lurking in the golf ranks. Step forward Bob MacIntyre, who certainly made a big impression, both on and off the course, in the week that Murray admitted the end for him is nigh in terms of playing.

Robert MacIntyre during the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

For lots of people involved in the game, MacIntyre’s appearance in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship was a first chance to either see the 22-year-old in action or speak to him, and there was no hiding the fact that he’s wasted no time ticking 
boxes in his new workplace on the European Tour.

“I was really impressed,” declared Richie Ramsay, a three-time winner on the circuit, after watching MacIntyre at close quarters as one of his playing partners in the opening two rounds of the Rolex Series event. “He’s got the game that you need out here. He hits the ball a good distance and is pretty straight. He also seems quite free. He’s still got a lot of feel. He’s not bogged down in the mechanics of the swing.”

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With Ramsay having been the most recent Scot to carve out a career on the European Tour after showing promise in the amateur ranks, that praise should certainly be encouraging for MacIntyre, as should the view offered by Tommy Fleetwood after he played with the left-hander in the final round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

“He is probably better than I was at 22,” opined the 2017 Race to Dubai winner. “He does more good things than I did at that age. He has a good attitude. From what I saw, he strikes it very well and has a good all-round game. He is very smart and golf-savvy. As long as he stays on the right path, he’ll be fine. He has a good outlook. He’ll do very well.”

Yes, of course, it’s still early in MacIntyre’s professional career – the Abu Dhabi event was just his fifth start as a card holder on the European Tour – and, therefore, it’s only fair to him that everything is kept in perspective, especially in a sport that has a habit of biting just when you think you are making headway.

Let’s not forget, though, that we are talking about a player who beat Cameron Champ, a winner at 23 on the PGA Tour as a rookie, in one match in the 2017 Walker Cup and held him to a half in another. On the back of performances like that as an amateur and also graduating from the Challenge Tour last season at the first attempt, MacIntyre is certainly confident but no means cocky.

“It’s been good so far,” he admitted in one of his post-round chats with this correspondent in the UAE last week, where he took a number of media engagements in his stride, with every single interviewer commenting that he’d been a joy to listen to, something we’ve heard a lot over the years, of course, about the aforementioned Murray.

“It’s been quite a jump,” added 
MacIntyre. “I had a plan of being on the Challenge Tour for two years, finding my feet the first year then pushing on in the second year. To make the jump in one year was good and now I’m in a position where I have to try and step up. This year is about trying to find my feet, getting comfortable and keeping my card. Who knows where the game could take you. If I keep working the way I have been, there is no limit, really. I just need to tidy things up and I can see myself getting there.”

Refreshingly, MacIntyre has already identified a potential weakness that he’s set to address. “I struggled on the greens last week and, to be honest, I’ve struggled with that throughout my whole life, so I’ve got to go and work on that,” he admitted.

“It’s a work in progress. I switch hands. From outside six feet I grip it the orthodox way and from inside six feet I go cack-handed. But I don’t think that is helping me. It was a makeshift for the end of the Challenge Tour when I was struggling with my putting. However, I think it is time to find out what the problem is and sort it. I’ve not got a short-game coach. I work with Davy Burns [who is based at Kingsfield Golf Centre] on all aspects of my game at the moment, but I think it could be time to see a putting specialist.”

Murray, of course, will leave big shoes to fill, but why not a talented and hungry young golfer? Grant Forrest, Connor Syme, Liam Johnston, David Law, Bradley Neil, Ewen Ferguson and Calum Hill also have those qualities, hence a tangible buzz about Scottish golf right now.