Open Championship 2019: Robert MacIntyre making big noise at Royal Portrush
|The 148th Open Championship, Royal Portrush|
|Dates: 18-21 July|
|Coverage: Live text updates and in-play clips on BBC Sport website, with live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and daily highlights on BBC Two.|
There's a story that Bob MacIntyre tells that makes you think, not about the golfer but about the man, his family and where they come from. He takes us back to the BMW International in Germany last month and an approach shot on 18 in Friday's second round.
If he makes a birdie he knows that he makes the weekend and the cash that comes with it secures him a place in his first major, the 148th Open at Portrush. If he doesn't, well, there are other things in life that are more important. In that moment, waiting to strike, MacIntyre says he went to a different place. "I just thought about completely different things which, for me, means the kids."
The kids are Thomas, aged 12, and Dan, aged five, both fostered by his mum and dad, Carol and Dougie, in the family home on the hill above Oban. That shot in Germany? It worked out. His first round in a major championship? That worked out, too. MacIntyre shot 68 to put himself on the first page of the leaderboard. You couldn't say it was easy, but he looked so at ease out there that the temptation to call it that way is forgivable.
"Once I eagled the par-4 [the drivable 5th], I was talking to Greg [Milne, his caddie]. 'We're leading The Open'." And they were. From the modest set-up of Glencruitten Golf Club in Oban - where Dougie is one of a two-man greenkeeping team - to his name in lights above so many stellar names of the global game. From the western Highlands a young man has come and he really, really looks the part.
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With him, much of the family. Dan the Man is not here. Too young, too giddy. Thomas, though, is here and what a joy it must have been to see his big pal doing what he was doing. Birdie on one, birdie on two, bogey on four, but eagle on five. "Gave it [the putt] a good rap and got lucky," he said. Luck? No. In the entire field, only two men eagled that hole, MacIntyre and the American Ryan Palmer. Luck really had nothing to do with it.
At one point, the prospect of a Scot leading The Open on day one was a real possibility. We reached for the record books. Last Scot to be in that position? Monty, 18 years ago.
It didn't transpire, but it made no difference. Certainly not to MacIntyre, an immensely laidback and endearing 22-year-old, an interesting character who says he finds freedom in his beloved shinty, a sport that takes him away from the 'me, me, me' culture in golf and puts him on a bus to a match with his mates, where you sense he's happiest.
He's a guy who likes to live a low-key life, a contradiction given the globetrotting world he is in, but there you go. "People keep asking when I'm going to move away," he said recently. "Simple answer? Never. I love it here. I'm an Oban boy and I don't ever want to be anything else."
He walked in playing partner Andrew 'Beef' Johnston's shadow, and he enjoyed it there. Enjoyed Beef's company, enjoyed that the shouts were all for Beef, enjoyed the peace and relative quiet to focus. This is his rookie year and already he's earned close to a million. Scottish golf is desperate for a new force worth believing in and though it's early the signs are hugely optimistic.
MacIntyre describes himself just as "Bob from Oban", but the hope of a golfing nation is rising with every solid performance he puts in. Joint second in the British Masters, second in the Made in Denmark and now this, a cool and composed beginning to his major championship career. "It's quicker than I expected," he said of the success he's had this season. "It's come faster than I ever thought."
Only 18 holes have been played, but he has the start he was looking for. Level with Koepka and Garcia and Fleetwood and ahead of Spieth and Day and Reed and miles ahead of Woods and McIlroy and so many others who dominated the preamble while he went about his work in harmony, just as he likes it, just as he wants it to remain when he goes again on Friday afternoon.