By Joy Chakravarty
Portrush, July 21: Robert MacIntyre, who praised the role of the MENA Tour in kickstarting his journey as a professional golfer at the start of The Open Championship week, finished his campaign at Royal Portrush in stunning fashion by surging up the leaderboard on the final day and finishing inside the top-10.
The young Scotsman, who qualified for the Open through his position in the Race to Dubai after a super start to the European Tour season, shot a three-under par 68 in brutal weather conditions on Sunday. A 20-feet birdie putt on the 18th hole took him to five-under par 279 for the tournament, and almost three hours later, it turned out to be good enough for a tied-sixth place.
The championship, which returned to Ireland and Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years, was won by Ireland’s Shane Lowry. He finished on 15-under par 269 for a six-shot win over England’s Tommy Fleetwood.
MacIntyre, who earns a spot in the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s next year on the basis of his top-10 finish here, became the first player from Scotland to finish inside the top-10 on his Open debut since Andrew Kirkcaldy in 1879.
A delighted MacIntyre said after the round: “You never know how many of these you’re going to get. For the first one, it’s been a dream come true.
“I actually didn’t putt great. I missed it in the right spots. It was the first time this week that I’d actually said we've played the golf course the way it was meant to be played.
“We stuck to our guns, we did everything right. Again, a few putts just slipped by. I happened to get the one in the end.”
MacIntyre, who got into a much-publicised argument mid-way through his second round with American Kyle Stanley for not shouting fore after hitting wayward tee shots, said the putt on the 72nd hole and the crowd reaction was the highlight of his week.
“It’s got to be holing the 20-footer on 18 there. The hair is standing on the back of your neck when that putt went in. That's what you play the game for,” said the 22-year-old from Oban.
“We said it coming down the last that I thought we might get it. I said to Greg (caddy), I’ve missed on 16 and 17 and 15, the putts just shaved by the edge of the hole. I thought one of them has got to go today. So happy to get it on the last.
“As a young kid when you're on the putting green, you're thinking of winning the Masters, winning The Open. Unfortunately that putt wasn’t to win The Open, but it’s put me in good position for the future.”
MacIntyre was planning to take three weeks off after The Open and spend time with his family and then hope to continue the momentum.
“It’s been a massive week, but I'm sure there will be no problem with getting my feet back on the ground,” said the man who has now risen to No102 in the world rankings.
“I’ve just got to enjoy this with my family. When I get home, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. I've got three weeks off. I’m going to relax for the first week and just enjoy this.
“I will just keep doing the simple things right. Just keep practicing, keep preparing the way we're preparing, and hopefully something good pops up again.”
The other past champion on the MENA Tour to make the cut, England’s Callum Shinkwin (2019 Omega Dubai Desert Classic Shootout), closed with a one-under par 70 and was tied 41st at two-over par total of 286.
The MENA Tour by Arena is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments in 2019. It will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professional to the bigger tours, and for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The first half of the 2019 season, comprising five tournaments and the Qualifying School, was held in February and March this year. The second half of the schedule begins with the Journey To Jordan-2 at Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan, from September 29.