• Alistair Tait

MacIntyre must go west after Masters magic

Robert MacIntyre’s first serious stint at competing in the United States didn’t go well. The Scot has made a fantastic fist of his second trip. He needs to take advantage of that and return to the United States for the sake of his career.

The left-hander’s T12 finish on his Masters debut to earn another invite to Augusta National 12 months from now is the highlight of his career to date. It’s an incredible achievement he needs to build on.

"If someone had given me tied for 12th for a start, I'd have taken it," MacIntyre said.
“I've played some great golf over the last week, and I feel like my game suits this golf course. “

He’s proved in a short space of time his game suits most golf courses.

Anyone who had invested in MacIntyre when he turned pro would be a happy punter right now: his career path has been on a steep upward curve.

Winning the 2019 European Tour Rookie of the Year award after an 11th place finish on the Race to Dubai had many wondering if he was just a flash in the pan. Victory last year in the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown proved he wasn’t. An impressive showing in the recent WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play introduced him to the wider world. Not many would have bet on him finishing top of a group that included world number one Dustin Johnson. Indeed, MacIntyre arguably should have defeated Johnson in their group match instead of halving with him.

After his impressive performance at Augusta National, a course he’d only ever played in computer games back home with his pals, no one would be surprised if he fares well in this week’s RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour, his fifth successive tournament in the United States.

The 24 year old has proved he can compete amongst the elite, and that spells bad news for the European Tour. He surely needs to pit himself against the world’s best on a regular basis by following fellow Scots Martin Laird and Russell Knox to the PGA Tour? He can’t afford not to go west again.

The gritty left-hander must play most of his golf fulltime on the PGA Tour with occasional forays into Europe for the same reason Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and many others Europeans and international players do: world ranking points.

MacIntyre entered the Masters ranked 45th in the world. He is sure to improve when the rankings are updated today. He needs to get as high as he can in the world top 50 and stay there so he can compete at the highest level on a regular basis.

No disrespect to the European Tour, but events like the Cyprus tournament don’t carry the same world ranking points as PGA Tour events, which have far stronger fields.

For example, the Official World Golf Ranking gave the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown a strength of field rating of just 42, with MacIntyre picking up 24 world ranking points. The Vivint Houston Open, the corresponding event on the PGA Tour, carried a strength of field rating of 337. Winner Carlos Ortiz picked up 50 points.

To use the modern vernacular, the PGA Tour is a complete no brainer for the Scot, even though he’ll be reluctant to spend time away from family and friends in Oban on Scotland’s West Coast. Maintaining his world top 50 status via the PGA means he can have the best of both worlds. He can play the Majors, World Golf Championships, top ranked PGA Tour events and cherry pick the stronger European Tour events like the Rolex Series.

MacIntyre briefly played college golf in America at McNeese State University on a scholarship. He quit in November 2015 after a year and a half to return home. Homesickness got the better of him.

“I was doing well but the lifestyle is completely different,” MacIntyre said when he finished runner-up to Scott Gregory in the 2016 Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl. “You can’t get two more opposites than a small town like Oban to the big state of Louisiana down in the deep south.
“My head wasn’t in the right place over there.”

His head is certainly in the right place now. He needs to learn to love the American lifestyle for the sake of his golf.

#JustSaying: “It’s all about world ranking points and staying in the top 50, that’s why so many of us are based in America.” Ian Poulter


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