Robert MacIntyre, fuelled by 'drug of shinty', may be callow but is not cowed by Masters debut

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The prospect of making your Masters debut, at the age of 24, in front of a global audience of millions, would be enough to make most mortals’ legs turn to jelly. Not Bob MacIntyre’s, apparently. “I thought I’d be more nervous or uptight,” the Scot, the only British debutant in this year’s field, admitted. “But just now I’m not at all nervous. I just want to get going.” Perhaps his fearlessness is not all that surprising. When you’re used to your rivals trying to take your head off with a shinty stick, whacking a little white golf ball up some well-manicured lawns probably holds a little less dread. MacIntyre, who hails from the small coastal town of Oban on the western edge of the Scottish Highlands, has a background in the sport and a warrior’s attitude to match. He clearly enjoys nothing better than rolling his sleeves up and getting stuck in. MacIntyre even returned home midway through his rookie season a couple of years ago, frustrated by the grind of the pro tour, to return to his first love, which he describes as “a combination of field hockey and legalised violence”. The decision raised a few eyebrows at the time, with some observers concerned that MacIntyre might be taking a risk with his fledgling golf career. “Some people take drugs, drink, the lot," he replied. "My drug is shinty.” No wonder some pundits are tipping MacIntyre to make a name for himself this week. The Scot, who has been paired with former champion (and fellow lefty) Mike Weir and Taiwan’s CT Pan, and will head out at 16.42 UK time on Thursday, is clearly a little bit different. MacIntyre backs himself, and thinks for himself too. Patrick Reed may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but MacIntyre struck up a friendship with the 2018 Masters champion in Turkey a couple of years ago and has found a useful ally and sounding board. They played the front nine together on Monday. “I think I gained his respect early on because I played well [in Turkey],” he said. “That’s what I feel you have to do with the top guys. Around this place he [Reed] has got a not bad record. He knows where to go. Me and Mike [caddie Mike Thomson] didn’t have a clue about certain things and he just told us little secrets, which we’re going to use this week.” MacIntyre may be callow but he is certainly not cowed. He says he can see why left-handers with a fade have fared well at Augusta in recent years, with Weir followed by Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. “Visually it can suit the left-hander,” he admitted. “But you’ve still got to hit the shots and hole the putts. It’s the man who hits the least bad shots who is probably going to win this week.” MacIntyre admits that is unlikely to be him. With such little experience of Augusta, and with the course playing so firm this week, it is likely to suit a player who knows his way around the place intimately. But that will not stop him trying. Asked whether he had been tempted to approach boyhood idol Mickelson when he found himself putting alongside the three-time champion on the practice green recently, MacIntyre looked almost affronted. “Not at all. I’m there to try to beat him. I’m not there just to get a picture with him.” Watch out for him, though. MacIntrye, who will be sporting a black armband this week in memory of golf writer and fellow Argyll native Jock MacVicar, clearly has something about him. This is a man who went from being outside the world's top 600 in 2018 to finishing sixth in his first ever major at the Open 10 months later, who posted a video of himself driving up Magnolia Lane this week accompanied by The Gunna Sound Ceilidh Band, whose grandfather, Dougie MacIntyre Sr, was regarded as among the best shinty players of all time and whose father and uncle scored all three goals when Oban Camanachd won its last league title in 1996, the year he was born. “Obviously it’s my first time here so you’re not really expecting too much,” he concluded of his hopes this week. “But I’m here to compete. I’m here to give myself a chance to win on Sunday. And if I play the way I know I can play, I don’t see why I can’t.”

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