From being outside the world’s top 600 in September 2018 to finishing sixth in his first ever major championship at The 148th Open ten months later, Robert MacIntyre’s golfing ascent has been rapid.
A pair of runner-up finishes at the British Masters and the Made in Denmark tournament helped secure his place at Royal Portrush due to his Race to Dubai ranking for the 2019 season and the Scot took full advantage on the Dunluce Links.
He’d agonisingly missed out on a place at The Open in 2016 when he lost in the final of The Amateur Championship to Scott Gregory, so three years on, the opportunity to play at his first major was extra special for one of the sport’s rising stars.
Giving his Dad ‘the look’
When you’re competing at The Open for the first time, alongside the best players in the world, you’d have thought your support network would be desperate to be on site cheering you on.
Yet MacIntyre had to twist the arm of one particular family member to ensure he made the journey to Portrush…
“The family, the full team are coming this week, so it should be fun,” explained the 22-year-old pre-tournament. “It’s good to have them for the first major.
“My dad was hemming and hawing about not coming until the weekend but he’s been told to come! He got the look from me…
“It’s unbelievable – you dream of these things, watch them on TV and to be here is pretty special.
“This is what you aim for, being here competing and seeing the superstars – it’s good to be in amongst them.”
What soon became clear however, was that MacIntyre wasn’t in Portrush simply to enjoy the ride – he was about to leave his mark on The Open.
An early leader
Playing alongside Kyle Stanley and popular Englishman Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, MacIntyre got his first-ever major underway at 8.36am on Thursday morning.
An early start but the Scot wasn’t slow out of the blocks, as he birdied the first two holes and bounced back from a bogey on 4 with a long eagle putt at the par-four 5th – having driven ball to the left fringe of the green.
Another birdie at the 7th moved him to -4 and suddenly, the debutant led The Open, making this major championship lark look easy.
“It was brilliant walking up the first fairway,” said MacIntyre. “Meeting Beef for the first time and the roar that erupted when he stepped on the tee, made me chuckle a wee bit.
“I was watching the leaderboard every moment! Once I eagled the par-four I was talking to my caddie Greg and saying ‘we're leading The Open.’
“I was a wee bit worried the putt on the 5th would go by the pin, running down the slope. But the green was setting into me, so I gave it a good rap and got lucky. It went in.”
A further two birdies and three bogies followed to ensure an opening-round 68 – the score of -3 leaving him tied third heading into Friday and dreaming big.
“I just kept glancing at the leaderboards and going ‘can we win this?’,” laughed MacIntyre after the round. “It's day one, and we just have to keep moving.
“I just need to put myself in position for Sunday, the back nine. And if you've got that chance, it's the way I play golf – you just keep going at it.
“It was a brilliant day all around. I enjoyed every bit of it. Don't get ahead of ourselves just now and keep doing what we're doing, enjoying it.”
Thursday’s impressive 68 was followed up by a three-birdie, four-bogey 72 on Friday – more than enough for the rookie to comfortably make the cut.
However, a perceived lack of etiquette from playing partner Stanley on the 17th hole left a sour taste in MacIntyre’s mouth.
“From the word go after he’s hit the tee shot, it's going in the crowd and he doesn't shout “fore”. Just shout, simple as that,” fumed the Scot.
“We're shouting “fore” as the ball is coming down, as it's coming into the crowd, and he's just standing watching it!
“People don't have enough time to react after we shout. People are diving out of the way of things when they should have more time. It hits my caddie’s mom. And so I told them how it was.
“I said I wasn't happy and he didn't take it well at all. It wasn't too pleasant but you've got to tell them. I think she [Greg’s mom] was all right but it's not what you want.”
Saturday was slightly less dramatic, as MacIntyre shot an even-par 71 playing alongside 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas to leave him on -2 for the Championship and inside the top 30 heading into the final day.
Having teed it up with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler at the Scottish Open the previous week, the youngster enjoyed seeing another elite golfer up close.
“It was good – he [Thomas] is a good guy and made you feel welcome out there,” said MacIntyre. “The last two weeks have been about an experience. To play with the top guys, it's been good to learn from them.
“Justin was chatting to me a bit but he's at work, so I don't try and kind of get too close to him. I'm doing my thing, he's doing his, and if he wants to chat down the fairway, he'll chat. And if not, we're good.”
They say the very best players come into their own on a Sunday – think of Tiger Woods in his pomp regularly blitzing the field during the final round.
If that’s the case, then MacIntyre certainly has a bright future as, in increasingly tricky weather conditions, he held his game together to climb up the leaderboard as those around him were falling back.
He birdied the 2nd, 7th, 10th and 18th, while a lone bogey at 14 ensured he carded a three-under-par 68 to end on -5 for the Championship.
That in itself would be a superb score in your maiden major but as the weather set in and other players struggled, it meant he ended the day in a tie for sixth – a better result than he ever could have hoped and to sink a 20-footer for birdie on the final hole was simply the icing on the cake.
“I'm proud of the way I handled the whole week, from start to finish, from my preparation all the way through to the last putt,” he added. “The experience was brilliant all round.
“You never know how many of these you're going to get. For the first one, it's been a dream come true.
“My highlight of the week has to be holing a 20-footer on 18 at the end. The hair is standing on the back of your neck when that putt went in. That's what you play the game for.
“As a young kid when you're on the putting green, you're putting to win The Open. Unfortunately, that putt wasn't to win The Open but it's put me in good position for the future.
“I’ve just got to keep doing the simple things right. I’ll just keep practising, keep preparing the way we're preparing and hopefully something good pops up again.”
If his first Open is anything to go by, then something better than good could be just around the corner for MacIntyre.