Bob MacIntyre heading for shinty training to relax after impressive Open debut

He produced a brilliant debut performance in the sport that has the Claret Jug and now he’s set to turn his hand to the one that has the Camanachd Cup.

Sunday, 21st July 2019, 9:38 pm
Bob MacIntyre lines up a putt at Royal Portrush
Bob MacIntyre lines up a putt at Royal Portrush

“I’m scheduled for a wee bit of shinty training on Tuesday, so I’m sure I’ll be there,” said Bob MacIntyre, smiling, as he was asked what he had planned for a three-week break.

The 22-year-old from Oban had just brought down the curtain on his debut in golf’s oldest major in memorable fashion, rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt at the 18th in the final round at Royal Portrush. That was greeted with a big fist pump and no wonder. A closing 68 – one of the best rounds of the day in appalling conditions on the Antrim coast – for a five-under-par 279 total secured a tie for sixth place and, with that, a place in next year’s event at Royal St George’s.

It was the first time since Colin Montgomerie achieved the feat at St Andrews in 2005 that a Scot had finished in the top ten in this tournament. It was also the best performance in it by a player flying the Saltire since Stephen Gallacher tied for 15th at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

What a week for MacIntyre in what has been a brilliant rookie season on the European Tour since he graduated from the Challenge Tour at the end of last year. “That was the way to finish! It was brilliant,” he said of that closing birdie, having earlier picked up shots at the second, seventh and 10th before dropping his only shot of the round at the 14th – the toughest hole of the week.

“Me and Greg [Milne, his caddie] just had to enjoy it. You never know how many Open appearances you’re going to get. So for me to do this in my first one, it’s been a dream come true. I actually didn’t putt great today. But I missed in the right spots. Today was the first time we’ve actually played the golf course the way it was meant to be played. We stuck to our guns and did everything right. A few putts just slipped by but I’m happy to get that one in the end.”

In the second round, MacIntyre had called out one of his playing partners, American Kyle Stanley, for not shouting ‘Fore’ as he twice hit spectators in the crowd, the second victim being Milne’s mum, Stephanie. While Stanley didn’t take kindly to that, the young Scot was praised by a multitude of people over the weekend, including two-time Open champion Ernie Els as he called for players to be banned over such incidents.

“It doesn’t matter what you say or do, you’re going to get negative feedback,” added MacIntyre after leaving his coach, Davy Burns, almost in tears at the finish then receiving warm congratulations from his manager Iain Stoddart after signing for his card. “But I’m proud of the way I handled the whole week, from start to finish, from my preparation all the way through to that putt on the last.

“I’m quite a chilled-out guy, so this kind of week, I could enjoy it. Last week [playing with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler in the marquee group in the first two rounds of the Scottish Open] was huge preparation for this. What an experience that was and it set me up perfectly for this.”

The left-hander has taken every single new experience this year in his stride. He looks as though he’s made for the big stages and he could soon break into the world’s top 100. After starting the year in 247th spot, he was up to 146th before this event and will be on the rise again when the rankings are updated today.

“I will keep my feet on the ground,” insisted MacIntyre, flashing another of his smiles. “I’m sure my family and friends back home will give me a ribbing, anyway! I’m sure there will be no problem with that. I’ve got to enjoy this with my family who are here, then get home and enjoy three weeks off. It’s time to enjoy this and see everyone.

“I’m scheduled for a wee bit of shinty training on Tuesday, so I’m sure I’ll be there. But, other than that, I’m going to relax for the first week and just enjoy this. I do always go to shinty training every week when I’m home. It’s half six until eight o’clock and, though I don’t know what it is, but it just gives me absolute peace of mind.

"I’m away from absolutely everything out there, just playing with my pals. It gives me everything, starting with fitness. I’ve lost a bit of weight since I started doing the training again earlier in the season, just after Morocco. So far, so good, I’ll just keep doing it.

“My dad, Dougie, is the coach of Oban Celtic, so he takes the training. I get out there and enjoy it. It’s not dangerous at all when you’re with your pals and they know what’s going on. I just enjoy what I’m doing.”

Russell Knox, the other Scot to make the cut, signed off with a disappointing 77 that included a miserable run of five bogeys in a row around the turn. “It was difficult and 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 are the hardest I’ve played in,” he said after slipping from around 20th at the start of the day to joint-41st on two-over.

“It wasn’t like Mickey Mouse conditions. In the Scottish Boys, we’ve played in worse rain and in more wind. Yes, it was on the biggest stage on a demanding course. So everything is kind of highlighted. But it was still doable, if you could hit good shots.”