PGA Championship contender Robert MacIntyre credits ‘happy Bob’ mindset for good golf


LOUSIVILLE, Ky. — Robert MacIntyre is used to making on-the-fly adjustments, ones that have brought him to this moment — tied for fourth at the PGA Championship after shooting a 5-under-par 66 on Thursday.

The left-handed golfer grew up battling the swirling gusts customary to his hometown of Oban in the Scottish Highlands. He dominated Scotland’s amateur scene on the best links courses in the world, where failure to acclimate to changing conditions can drive you into the ground. But this week — as he plays the PGA Championship as a PGA Tour member for the first time — MacIntyre is facing his biggest adjustment yet.

MacIntyre earned his PGA Tour card after a successful 2023 DP World Tour season (formerly the European Tour). But since picking up his bags and establishing a base in Orlando, Fla. to play in the tour full-time, MacIntyre has been open about the fact that he’s struggling to adapt to his new lifestyle. He’s chasing his dream of winning major championships, but the day-to-day inner workings of that effort are not what he expected.

The weeks are long. The stakes are high. Many players keep to themselves. The environment is a stark contrast to MacIntyre’s experience on the DP World Tour, and it’s not just because he’s playing new golf courses with foreign strains of grass. His European peers like to chat. The Americans, in his experience, don’t. Swing coaches, psychologists, and trainers accompany their players to practice sessions and dinners. On the DP World Tour everyone is in it together. Time on the road felt like home away from home for MacIntyre. So far, the PGA Tour has been far from that.

It doesn’t help that MacIntyre hasn’t been in consistent form on the course. He’s missed six of his last 12 starts on the PGA Tour, with one top-10 finish. The state of his game is a far cry from what it was in Rome at the Ryder Cup, where the Team Europe rookie went unbeaten in the match-play event. The European squad celebrated their victory by belting out songs for 45 minutes straight on the team bus. MacIntyre’s weeks are quieter now.

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Robert MacIntyre played alongside John Daly on Thursday, helping the Scotsman stay relaxed. (Andrew Redington / Getty Images)

MacIntyre’s spirits seemed to be lifted ever so slightly on Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club. Perhaps that was because of his blemish-free scorecard. He shot 66 to tie his Ryder Cup teammate Rory McIlroy at 5-under, with birdies on the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 11th and 12th holes. He three-putted the 18th green for a chance to get to 6-under.

Or maybe it was MacIntyre’s favorable pairing, early on the tee sheet. He played alongside a chatty Lee Hodges and legendary character John Daly, who blew through two packs of cigarettes and four Snickers bars on Thursday. At last week’s Myrtle Beach Classic, MacIntyre cited a light-hearted stroll with his playing partner, former DP World Tour player Ryan Fox, as making the round “easier.” He shot 7-under that day.

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But, MacIntyre said, the key to his bogey-free round at Valhalla on Thursday was something else entirely, and he was quick to share it after the round.

“I think it was spending some time back at home in Scotland,” MacIntyre said. “I got three weeks at home and hardly touched the golf clubs, done some stupid stuff and just enjoyed myself.”

It should have been easy to guess that three weeks with no practice, plenty of pints, and unlimited access to the familiar faces of his 8,500-person hometown was exactly what MacIntyre needed to play his way into contention during the first round of a major.

In professional golf, and especially at the major championships, you need to be as precise with the thoughts you allow into your frontal lobe as you are with the path of the clubface. Golfers are products of their environments, and succeeding at the highest level in this sport takes a lot out of you. Elite players often speak of feeling mentally depleted after winning, when it should be the best feeling in the game.

If you’re already expending energy grappling with the discomforts of daily life, you’ve got problems when the starter announces your name on the first tee. MacIntyre is still figuring out exactly how he’ll achieve the mental space he needs to occupy, but he knows what he needs to do to get there.

“I think the last little while, I’ve improved almost my process playing any sort of golf,” MacIntyre said. “I’m in a good mind frame after getting home to Scotland.”

Back at the Myrtle Beach Classic, the 27-year-old said he feels as though, “a happy Bob MacIntyre is a dangerous Bob MacIntyre on a golf course.”

He first started to feel like that person again during the Zurich Classic — the PGA Tour’s team event — while playing alongside Beglium’s Thomas Detry. This week in Kentucky, MacIntyre has his girlfriend and his mom, Carol, alongside him. His mother is feeding him too many desserts to count. He’s enjoying Lousiville, rather than counting down the days until he can fly back to Oban.

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“When I can be around friends, family, people closest to me, people that actually care about me, they speak to me as Bob the human rather than Bob the golfer,” MacIntyre said. “I think that’s when I’m at my happiest, when I’m not talking about golf, golf, golf. Life is actually more important than what I’m doing out here.”

MacIntyre is making strides on the golf course, but it all stemmed from a realization that he would never have reached on the driving range, or the practice green or the 18th fairway. He had to find it at home.

(Top photo: Andrew Redington / Getty Images)





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