Bob MacIntyre only turned pro late in 2017. There was a lot of hype about his amateur career but the step up to the major ranks is a huge one, if you can get near it at all.
He’s now played in all of the majors, he’s made the cut in each of them and he’s featured strongly in half of them. At Royal Portrush he tied for sixth, now he’s going to be back at Augusta after tying for 12th last week.
The top 12 and ties receive an invite back and MacIntyre, now 24, looked to have missed out after back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17. But not a lot seems to faze the lad from Oban and he split the fairway at 300 yards, fired a short iron straight at the pin and then rolled it in. It would be his 21st birdie, more than anyone else in the field. And on his debut where it supposedly takes years to learn the nuances of the place – earlier in the week he had picked the collective brains of countryman Martin Laird and none other than Patrick Reed who he had previously befriended.
"I've watched it for years and years. My favourite memory has got to be probably Tiger Woods chipping in from the back of 16. I was looking at it the last couple of days, and I'm like, how has he done that. It was a perfect advert for Nike, that one, with the Swoosh dropping in. My favourite memory now is holing that putt on 18. That's what you dream of as a kid, and we're here living it."
Job done and just enough time to leave the property with a rendition of ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’…
In the short time that MacIntyre has been on tour, he got off the Challenge Tout at the first time of asking, he has been the Rookie of the Year and has also won, in Cyprus last season, and he’s now up to 44th in the world. One place above him is Sergio Garcia, just below him is the current Open champ Shane Lowry. Come September we might see the three of them line up for Europe in the Ryder Cup?
In the Walker Cup that MacIntyre starred in four years ago he twice played Cameron Champ who was another to star at Augusta last week. In the American team there was also the Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris and the PGA champion Collin Morikawa. From the GB&I team MacIntyre has made the greatest strides since the drubbing at the LA Country Club.
One of the highlights of the 19-7 reversal was MacIntyre’s 6&4 win over the monster-hitting Champ and then the half the following day.
“He was consistently 50-80 yards ahead of me and so straight, I couldn’t even think about playing the guy. So I had to play the course. If we both played our best then I would probably lose as he was hitting shorter irons in but the chances of him playing great when I’m playing great are slimmer as I was always hitting in first and putting so much pressure on him,” explained MacIntyre.
“I felt like he was out for a bit of revenge but I’m one of them guys who, until I’m beat, I’m not down. It was some match and I was hanging in there, he started really playing well and I holed a 40-footer at 16 when he was very close. He then holed from 20 feet for par at 18 after hacking out and I was 15 feet away for a birdie. We were beat as a team so I thought if it drops, it drops but don’t hit it six feet by. I hit it three feet by and smiled at him and I thought, ‘Come on, just give us that!’ He did. He’s a really nice guy.”
It takes one to know one. MacIntyre’s geniality is one of the most common refrains on tour and, in his relatively short time as part of the travelling circus, he’s become one of the most popular figures out there and the media love him.
The beauty of Rory McIlroy is how honest he is and always has been. Very occasionally it will get him into a spot of bother but, more often than not, everybody welcomes his openness. He’s himself with the media and that comes across, likewise MacIntyre. He doesn’t appear to have an affected bone in his body and, with his new-found success, he’s the exact same person as he was before turning pro.
MacIntyre plays the game in the same way that he talks about it; he just gets on with it and, if there are a few bumps in the road, then he quickly gets on with the job in hand. At Augusta he had four straight bogeys around the turn in his debut round but he still emerged with a 74 thanks to three late birdies, keeping himself in things. Then, on the final day, he was three over early one but he then began rolling in the putts again.
MacIntyre is now mixing in elite company, at the Match Play he halved with Dustin Johnson in topping his group, on the Sunday at Augusta he played alongside Tony Finau.
"I've played with Tony a couple of times now, such a nice guy, and the two of us got on great. Chatting all the way around. But no, it's unbelievable, really to believe that I would be competing in the Masters Tournament, playing with the best guys on the planet. When I was a young kid I wanted to, but until I'm here doing it, you don't really believe it, and we're here now, and it's the best feeling I can have.”
At the start of his rookie European Tour season in 2019 I half arranged to try and set up an interview in Abu Dhabi. Players will generally do a series of about turns if they think a journalist wants to engage with them and, after a single text, I bumped into the Scot by the 18th while waiting for someone else.
We arranged a 10am chat which, in my mind, had a 50-50 chance of happening. Due to the fact that my 9am player had slept in I was early and, there, on the clubhouse veranda was MacIntyre. There was none of the usual ‘I can spare you 10 minutes’, we just spoke for as long as it took which, as it turned out, was well over half an hour. In that time he spoke about how his parents took in foster kids, life in Oban, how he drives his mum’s car, playing with Ernie Els, the Walker Cup, shinty, being a left-hander, his home course of Glencruitten and how hard he’d found sponsorship to come by?
“I’m not an easy one for sponsorship,” he replied. “I’m from a small town, which is two hours from the nearest city and I’m not in a prime location. But I signed with Bounce Sports and have done their amateur to pro scheme where the top ams get sponsorship from Aberdeen Asset, Scottish Hydro and Scottish Golf for the first two years if you’re still on the Challenge Tour. I’ve been with TaylorMade since I was 16 so that’s a no-brainer for a club deal. I try to boost my home club, Glencruitten, as much as I can. I always like to keep stuff closer to home.”
MacIntyre is now a home owner, of a flat in his beloved Oban.