Bob MacIntyre reveals what Rory McIlroy had to say in locker-room chat
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The Oban man was in his rookie season on the DP World Tour when he was paired with McIlroy and Rickie Fowler in one of the marquee groups in the 2019 Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.
“It was unbelievable,” recalled MacIntyre, speaking at the East Lothian venue in the countdown to this year’s exciting edition, which has luxury Korean car company Genesis as a new title sponsor and is counting for both the Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup for the first time.
“I remember teeing it up and thinking ‘just make contact with this thing’. I was so nervous because I had never met these guys, never mind played with them. But, once I got playing with them, I realised they were just two normal guys.”
Nearly three years on, having used that experience to feel comfortable in other big events, notably the majors, MacIntyre now feels very much at home in such illustrious company.
“To this day, I walk into a locker-room and mine and Rory’s lockers are often near each other because of our surnames,” he added. “I chat to him most weeks when he and I are playing. It’s just incredible for me to think this is the level of golf I’m playing at.”
The 25-year-old smiled when he was asked if four-time major winner McIlroy had passed on any tips during those chats. “One of the best ones was when we were in the locker- room at Riviera for the Genesis (the PGA Tour event in Los Angeles hosted by Tiger Woods) with Peter Malnati,” he said.
“We were talking about schedules and whatnot and he [Malnati] asked how often we had to change an event. Rory said, ‘I don’t play more than 25, so I have to change one now and again’. Peter said ‘I wish I was one of the big boys’ and Rory turned to him and said ‘Peter, there’s nothing stopping you being one of the big boys’.
“It just shows that anyone can do it. Where Rory came from, people wouldn’t expect him to be who he is. There’s nothing stopping anyone from being a top golfer.”
World No 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is the latest top golfer to commit to this year’s Genesis Scottish Open, joining fellow major winners Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
Defending champion Min Woo Lee and seven-time DP World Tour winner Matt Fitzpatrick have also been announced and, with more big names to come, it’s almost certain that MacIntyre will find himself in another marquee group in July.
“It is just about being comfortable in the environment,” he said of that possibility. “You have to gain respect from the top guys; you can’t just expect to have it. I think I showed that week in 2019 that I can handle it and play some decent golf. I think the majority now realise I’m not here to make up numbers, I’m here to compete.”
On his drive into The Renaissance Club, MacIntyre was quick to spot two things - a FedEx Cup sign and also some changes that have been made to the course by its American owners in tandem with designer Tom Doak and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington.
“It’s obviously brilliant for the DP World Tour and PGA Tour to have such a big sponsor,” he said of Genesis, which has been involved in golf globally since 2015 but is involved for the first time on this side of the Atlantic as part of a branching out process. “The event that Genesis sponsors in America is massive at Riviera and hopefully this one can be as big.
“I’ve only played a couple of Scottish Opens and one was during Covid, but the level it is going towards is out of this world. The first event I played was big, but now it has more big players playing and it has definitely elevated it to another level.
“I think it’s comfortably in the top -10 standard-wise and now it’s being staged through the joint-alliance between the tours. It sits in a perfect position on the schedule and, with Genesis on board and all these big players coming, I don’t think there’s many bigger tournaments outside the majors.”
That also counts in terms of its stature as a prize. “For me, outside of the majors the Scottish Open is the one,” added MacIntyre. “As a Scot, it’s the one you want to win and, with the standard of the field and everything that comes with it, it would mean absolutely everything - for me it’s the fifth major.”
Those course changes are part of a bid to keep making it better. “It’s brilliant,” said MacIntyre of that. “I speak to Jerry [Sarvadi, the CEO] a little bit throughout the season and I actually asked him what was going and he said, ‘you’ll see it, there’s a couple of changes’.
“Driving in there I’ve seen two changes and I’m not even at the fourth hole yet. It’s brilliant to see they’re trying to make it better and you can’t ask for any more than that as a player in the event."
Some wind, which was blowing fairly strong as he spoke, wouldn’t go amiss in July. “The first time I played it poured with rain and then there was no wind for a couple of days,” recalled MacIntyre.
“Any links golf course in the world can get beat up that way. Links golf, you need wind. Hopefully this year we get some. We don’t need the rain, but a little bit of wind wouldn’t go amiss."