Bob MacIntyre hoping to do ‘something special’ in WGC Match Play

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The 25-year-old from Oban takes on Open champion Collin Morikawa in his opening match on Wednesday before then facing three-time PGA Tour winner Jason Kokrak and former Masters champion Sergio Garcia on Thursday and Friday respectively in the round-robin phase.

Twelve months ago, MacIntyre progressed to the knockout stage from a group that included then world No 1 Dustin Johnson, driving the green at the 371-yard 18th in his concluding match against Adam Long to earn a decisive half.

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The left-hander was then knocked out in the last 16 by Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perez, but, having overcome an anxious wait to secure his place in the 64-man field, MacIntyre is licking his lips again at the prospect of taking on two major winners.

Bob MacIntyre is looking forward to taking on Collin Morikawa in his opening game in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday. Picture: Michael Owens/Getty Images.

“You’re playing against the best guys in the world here this week,” he said. “If you’re not quite at it, then you can get blown out. If you’re on your game, you can do something special.”

Having been inside the top 50 this time last year, MacIntyre has slipped to 70th in the latest rankings, but this event carries massive points, as does The Masters in a fortnight’s time and he’s heading back there as well after finishing joint-12th on his Augusta National debuts last April.

“It’s a great achievement,” he said of being in this week’s field before adding of the season’s opening major and an appearance in the Valero Texas Open in between: ”I have great opportunities coming up.”

MacIntyre won the Scottish Amateur Championship at Muirfield under the head-to-head format, which he also played regularly wearing both Scotland and Great Britain & Ireland colors before turning professional.

“I’ve been brought up playing match play all my life,” he said, smiling. “A lot of our junior golf is match play. I’m used to it. I know what it takes. But it’s definitely tough.

“You’re playing against the best guys in the world here this week. If you’re not quite at it, then you can get blown out. If you’re on your game, you can do something special.”

After beating Kevin Na in his opening encounter last year, MacIntyre halved with Johnson before coming from three down against Long to secure another half point.

Playing against Na, Johnson was sizing up a putt on the 18th green as MacIntyre’s ball landed at the side of the green and ran down to within two feet of the hole.

“Yeah, in match play anything can happen,” said the Scot as he recalled his wonder shot. “This golf course you can birdie every hole, or there’s an opportunity to birdie every hole.

“Just don’t get too down on yourself if it’s not going your way. Even with a couple holes to go, there’s still plenty of opportunities.”

MacIntyre is making his first appearance since finishing in a tie for 15th at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles last month. He’d toyed with the idea of ​​heading to South Africa for a couple of DP World Tour events before deciding that, mainly from a logistical point of view, it wasn’t really practical.

Morikawa, already a two-time major winner, will be a formidable first opponent on this occasion, having picked up three-and-half points from his four matches in helping the US to a record 19-9 win in last year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

MacIntyre is ready to be hit with some punches, but believes he’s got the mentality it takes for match-play. “Hopefully do something special on the next shot or make a birdie on the next hole,” he replied to being asked how he planned to respond to mistakes or losing a hole.

“But you’ve just got to stay relaxed and accept it. You can’t be perfect at golf. It’s a game that you can’t perfect. You’ve just got to get on with it.

“You’re going to get knocked down, you’re going to get back up. You’ve just got to keep going. There’s plenty of struggles in life, and the same in golf.

“There’s tough times in golf, and there’s tough times in life. You’ve just got to try and do your best as much as you can and just move on.”

Since tying for second in the Genesis Invitational, Morikawa has missed the cut in The Players Championship and finished outside the top 60 in the Valspar Championship. But he’s hoping a change in format can get him firing on all cylinders again.

“I love it,” he said of match-play. “I think anytime we have tournaments, whether it’s this or like a Zurich team event, they’re always fun because it’s something different that we normally don’t get to do.

“And anytime you get to play match play, it’s a whole different mindset on how you go into the week. All I need to worry about is who I’m going to be playing that day and trying to beat them hole by hole. It’s a fun format, and I’m glad to be back, and hopefully we can make it a great week.”

The Californian capped his week to remember in the Ryder Cup by fighting out a halved match with Viktor Hovald. “I wouldn’t say it taught me anything, but I guess I embraced what the Ryder Cup was,” he said of the Wisconsin win under Steve Stricker’s captaincy. “I was there to enjoy it but to just win. That’s what we wanted to do.

“When I think back to my amateur team events, all we cared about was winning, especially at the Walker Cup. We were doing it for our captain, Spider Miller, and I know he wanted that revenge. He wanted it from the previous two years when he had lost it, and we were so focused on winning.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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