Robert MacIntyre will be sitting at home in Oban in the west of Scotland this week watching the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on TV. He is not involved on this occasion, but it seems only a matter of time. While he watches the drama unfolding, he admits will be thinking of his next challenge. “I won an event last year, so I want to keep it going. If I could win the Dunhill Links, as a Scotsman at the Home of Golf, that’s where I want to be. Everyone knows that the Scots are dying to win this.”
MacIntyre has made a dramatic arrival on the golfing scene. Now aged 25, he finished 11th in the Race to Dubai in 2019, after a season that included three runner-up finishes and a tie for sixth place in his Major Championship debut at The Open. The following season he won the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown, and in 2021 finished tied 12th in The Masters and eighth in The Open.
“Being the top-ranked Scot is just a gift that you get for playing good golf. Good golf takes care of everything. So I've got work to do, because I want to achieve greater things than 55th in the world,” he said.
“I've obviously exceeded my expectations to this point, but once I got in the position that I could achieve things, then I feel that I've not achieved what I wanted to, if I'm being honest.
“I got to the Masters, that was my No.1 goal at the start of the season. Got there and then you reset goals to keep pushing yourself. I've not done exactly what I wanted, but it's been a good season.”
This year MacIntyre faces a challenging field at St Andrews, including world No.10 Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, winner of the BMW PGA, Tommy Fleetwood, twice Alfred Dunhill Links runner-up, 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry and two-time champions Padraig Harrington and Tyrrell Hatton.
He is not intimidated. “I wouldn't turn up if I didn't think I could win and I’m now starting to get to know all of them. I played with Tony Finau in the last round of the Masters, and a couple of times prior to that. Billy Horschel and I got on really well; he kind of took me under his wing when I was in America on my own.
“Hopefully I can get in there on the Sunday and give it a go. Thankfully there are going to be fans again, which makes life a wee bit easier. Some family and friends will come down as well which is always a bonus. I love playing golf, but I love playing golf when my family and friends are there more, so that will be special for me and hopefully we can put up a challenge this year.”
Oban folklore has it that when MacIntyre is in action within a reasonable distance, half the town turns up to support him. Is that true?
“Not quite as many as that. Probably half the golf club, but the support I get from this town has been brilliant. They've given me the opportunities to go on and chase a dream and here we are,” he said.
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is a celebration of Links golf over three of the greatest Links courses in the world: the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. MacIntyre says he was brought up playing Links golf and knows how easy it is to get blown away.
“My ball flight and everything suits target golf more, but don't get me wrong, if I'm playing Links golf I want it to be tough. I want it to be blowing from the start. It separates everyone a wee bit. If you’re not striking it or if your short game’s not brilliant then you’re never going to get away with it. I love Links golf, I’ve grown up with it, but it’s not easy when it goes against you.”
MacIntyre says Carnoustie is one of his favourite courses. “I played Carnoustie in the British Amateur a fair few years ago and absolutely love it. It’s a true test. Even in damp conditions it can still bite you.
“I've played the Old Course in the St Andrews Links Trophy loads of times as an amateur. The more you play it the more you start to enjoy it. When I first played it, I kept hitting it left, just making sure I wasn't in trouble, but the more you play it the more you think ‘I’m starting to work this place out’.
“If I could play a golf course for the rest of my life, Kingsbarns would be up there. I’m a views person. If something looks good visually, I fall in love with it. Kingsbarns is just one of the most spectacular venues that you can play golf at.
“Now I’m really looking forward to getting the week going and get into a position to win the golf tournament. When I’m there or thereabouts, there’s not much left on the line. It’s all systems go. I think that’s why people enjoy watching me.”