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He knows he’ll be nervous.
No point pretending he won’t. It’s not just a major. It’s not just his first major. It’s the Open Championship. In golf, stages don’t come much bigger.
As his pulse quickens to a gallop, he’ll stand on the first tee, close his eyes and strain as best he can to hear two words.
It might be Thomas. It might be ‘Dan The Man’. Knowing what they’re like, it might be both of them. He’ll listen out for them calling to him and knows he’ll immediately relax.
“On the tee…
As he prepares to peg up his ball in the most significant event of his fledgling career, his mind will drift home – ninety-five miles as the crow flies – from Portrush to Oban.
“Any time I’m feeing nervous, that’s where I go,” he says. “Back to my mum and dad’s house.”
He imagines larking around and playing with the two young boys his parents foster. They help keep him grounded, he says. Relaxed. Honest. ‘Just Bob’.
For European Tour rookie MacIntyre, home is truly where the heart is.
“People keeping asking me when I’m going to move away,” he says. “Simple answer? Never. I love it here. You drive into the town on a sunny day and it’s just beautiful, it’s busy, there’s a real buzz about the place. But then I can come up to the golf club and it’s out of the way, it’s quiet. It’s got everything I need and want.
“I’m an Oban boy and I don’t ever want to be anything else.”
The club to which he refers is Glencruitten. His dad heads up the two-man greenkeeping team. The family home backs onto the course. It’s a modest set-up. No airs and graces. Yet good enough, in every respect, to cultivate a golfer widely tipped to be Scotland’s next Colin Montgomerie.
A heavy burden for any player but one that 22-year-old left-hander MacIntyre is giving not so much as a second thought to.
“People can say what they want wherever they want,” he shrugs. “All I can do is go and hit that wee white ball. I’m aware of the expectations but the only pressure I ever let myself feel is the pressure I put on myself.
“I get how it works. If I don’t achieve what people expect me to achieve, they’ll say I haven’t lived up to my potential. That’s fine. But I’ll never be disappointed with what I do because I know within myself that I’m giving it absolutely everything I’ve got. If it doesn’t work, it might be nothing more than one innocent misstep somewhere along the line. These things happen. But whatever I achieve or don’t achieve, it won’t be for the lack of trying or desire.”
It’s a cliché but MacIntyre speaks and behaves with maturity beyond his years. When he goes home, he plays with, as he calls them, ‘average golfers’. Guys off fifteen and up. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he says. “If I’m not practising, I just want to enjoy myself.
“If I want a night out, I’ll go and have a night out. Obviously, there are limits. Self-imposed limits. You don’t want to make a fool of yourself, you know? But that’s not because I’m a golfer. It’s more the way I’ve been brought up. Show people respect and all that.”
It’s impossible to overstate the part Oban has played in getting MacIntyre where he is: on the European Tour, his card secured for next year with half of his rookie season left to play (he’s currently in the top 20 on the Race To Dubai), and in the field for this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush – his first major.
“Things have happened so quickly,” he acknowledges. “It’s all just snowballed from turning pro, getting my Challenge Tour card, getting my European Tour card, getting into my first major… you know, I’m just trying to live in the moment and focus on getting a little bit better each time I play. Everything else is a product of getting that stuff right.”
Even so, he admits that playing in the Open is a dream come true, a dream that began on the practice putting green in front of the Glencruitten clubhouse years ago. Looking down at the same green now, he laughs fondly at the memory. “We all used to stand there pretending we had a putt to win the Claret Jug.”
Now, he has the chance to make real that fantasy. Not that he’s dwelling on the prospect. “I’m determined just to go there and enjoy it. If I make the cut and get myself into contention over the weekend, I know I’m going to be playing with some big names. But the way I look at it is that this is a good chance to test myself against the best players in the world. That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? To be the best I can be. Whether that’s a top 50 player or a top 10 player in the world, who knows? Only time will tell.”
Whilst other young golfers go out to secure a practice round with one of the world’s biggest names, MacIntyre is taking the opposite approach.
“It’s something I’ve given quite a lot of thought to,” he says. “I’ve seen boys go out and play with Rory or so on but I don’t really see any point in that until you’re drawn together. It reminds me of Hong Kong last year. It was my first start as a European Tour cardholder and I had arranged to play a practice round with Sean Crocker, an American player I know pretty well.
“We agreed that we’d get each other on the first tee at half ten. So, next morning, twenty-five past ten, I’m walking to the tee and there’s a big crowd around it. I’m thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’ I make my way through it and there’s Crocker standing with Patrick Reed.
“I just had a quiet word with Sean and said I’d just hang back.”
“It was my first event and I didn’t want to start off on an uncomfortable footing if I didn’t need to. Fair enough if that’s the final round of a tournament when I’m contention and I’m fighting Patrick Reed for the title. That’s fine. That’s an environment I can control. That’s what you play for. But you’ve got to have your wits about you and not start doing the things just because that’s what everyone else does. You’ve got to do what’s right for you and trust the stuff that got you this far.
“Don’t get me wrong, when I get to Portrush, I’ll see Tiger Woods on the range and it’ll probably feel a bit strange but I’m there to compete every bit as much as anybody. We’re all level-par at the start of the week so I’m just going to go and give it my best shot the best way I know how and we’ll see where I end up.”
And when it’s all over, win or lose, he’ll pack his bags and go home.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that the tour is a busy, busy place,” he says. “The other week, at the BMW International Open, I watched Martin Kaymer and, with him being the home favourite, everyone was wanting his autograph or a picture with him. It was non-stop. I remember thinking that if he lived in a city, he’d be getting hounded everywhere he went. Now, I’m not saying it’s going to happen but if I ever got to that level, I’d be able to come back home and get out of the way of it all.
“Okay, so there might a few more people wanting autographs but put it this way: it’s a long way to travel to come up here!
“It’s not that I don’t want to be that guy. It’s that I know how important it is to be able to switch off and separate what you do from who you are.
“What I do is play golf. But really, I’m just Bob from Oban.”
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