The Open: Bob MacIntyre in 'fight and grind' on horror day for Phil Mickelson
Bob MacIntyre was right when he said “two-over-par isn’t horrific” as he reflected on his opening-day’s work in the 149th Open at Royal St George’s.
Horrific was the sort of thing happening to his fellow lefty, Phil Mickelson in the match ahead as the US PGA champion slumped to an 80, leaving him joint-last in the 156-strong field.
It was only the third time he’d failed to break 80 in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event and the first since 2003. The limp effort was also his worst opening round in a major since signing for an 81 in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
While there seems little chance of Mickelson being around for the weekend at the venue where he finished joint-second in 2011, MacIntyre still has that first target in his sights.
On a day when the afternoon starters faced tougher conditions as the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, the 24-year-old from Oban found himself three-over at the turn.
Helped by a birdie-2 at the 16th, he came home in one-under to sit in a tie for 91st. It’s not where he wanted to be after the opening circuit, but he certainly wasn’t downbeat afterwards.
“Tee to green I thought I was fairly solid until late on there, when I hit two horrific wedge shots on the last two holes – but got out with pars,” said MacIntrye in offering an initial summary of his day’s work.
“I felt like it was tough. I was looking at the leaderboard and thinking, ‘how am I getting close to six-under par?’ I saw Webb Simpson had a score of four-under this afternoon and that was incredible. I played decent.”
Earlier, MacIntyre had hit a perfect opening tee shot and looked pleased with that before smiling as he walked off the tee to see Justin Rose waiting to play his second shot at the 18th from almost on the first fairway following a wild drive.
The Scot was a fraction away from rolling in a 20-footer for a birdie to start. “I thought that was in,” he admitted.
He didn’t really threaten the hole with another birdie chance, this time from 15 feet, at the second before holing a downhill tester for a par at the short third. Bogeys at the fourth, eighth and ninth then left him on the backfoot.
“I was just trying to work myself into a golf tournament rather than out of a golf tournament. Two over par isn’t horrific. I’m not out of it. It’s a start, that’s the way I see it,” he said.
Mainly from playing here in the 2017 Amateur Championship, MacIntyre is pretty familiar with the Kent course, but it was a tough test on this particular occasion.
“I watched some of the golf this morning,” he said of killing time before his 2.59pm tee off alongside American duo Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele. “But some of those holes this afternoon, I didn’t have enough ammo in the bag to get there.
“The par-3 11th, I’ve hit the longest iron I’ve got, a 2-iron. And it’s not even close to reaching the pin. I’ve then gone on to 14 and smoked driver, smoked my 4-iron to get pin high. I literally didn’t have any more in the bag.
“I said to Mike [Thomson, his caddie] when I walked off 13 or 14 that I felt like I was playing good – and I was three-over-par. It’s links golf.”
One birdie is always better than none at all. “I made the birdie on the 16th because I made a good putt on the 15th,” he said. “I hadn’t holed a putt. With wind, I struggle with momentum on the greens. If I don’t hole early, I don’t see the lines.
“I almost knocked the one in on the 15th because of rage. I hit a great tee shot and it pitched clean into a bunker. I hacked it out to leave a number and holed the putt out of anger.
“There was nothing going through my head except: hit the putt. Same on the 16th. Just hit it. When I play my best tee to green, I don’t think about one thing. I just swing the club and the ball takes off exactly where I’m aiming it. That’s what I’m trying to get with my putter. Go blank and hit it. I have to get the head switched on right and go again.”
MacIntyre, the sole Scot in the field, has made the cut in all six majors he’s played in, having started that impressive run when tying for sixth on his debut in this event at Portrush two years ago.
“I’m reasonably content,” he stressed. “It wasn’t great at the start, we were misjudging distances, just not playing the right shot into greens at times.
“I had a three-putt early on, as well. But it was blowing an absolute gale out there, more than I thought it was going to be. So two over par, I keep saying it, I’m not out of it. It is what it is.
“You’ve got to hope that it’s going to be the exact same tomorrow, a little bit calmer early on. I mean, it was still blowing this morning. But it was playable.
“You went into the rough downwind, you had no chance. You went into the rough into the wind and you had no chance because you couldn’t get enough club on to it."
He concluded: “I really enjoyed it except for two thins on 17 and 18. It’s a fight and a grind, but I enjoyed every bit.
"I just have to keep playing the way I’m playing. I’m due a good score and keep feeling I’m coming off the course with the worst score I could have. Golf gets that way at times.”