Bob MacIntyre: How Phil Mickelson became golf’s top lefty again in style

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MacIntyre’s meteoric rise up the rankings over the past couple of years had seen him climb above not only Phil Mickelson but also two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson as he broke into the top 50 for the first time earlier this year.

But, on the back of his historic weekend win in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, the honor of ‘top lefty’ was reclaimed by Mickelson as he catapulted himself from 115th to 32nd – 14 spots above MacIntyre.

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American Brian Harman (49th) is also in the top 50, with South African Garrick Higgo sitting 52nd after his two recent triumphs on the European Tour and Watson in 58th.

“It was some win he had, to be fair,” admitted MacIntyre, speaking from Denmark, where he is playing in this week’s Made in HimmerLand event on the European Tour. “Hat’s off. He’s overtaken me in style.

Bob MacIntyre

“Obviously, I keep one eye on the world rankings and top lefty, it was nice for a while, but I’m still young. I’ve got plenty of years to come.”

Mickelson is MacIntyre’s hero, having dreamt as a kid that he would be playing in the same events as him one day, as has been the case now on a number of occasions, including the opening two majors this year.

“I’ve looked up to Phil,” said the 24-year-old as Mickelson was on his way to joining Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo as a six-time major winner on the South Carolina coast on Sunday.

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“I’ve never had the chance to speak to him or spend a round with him. I’ve just obviously watched him on TV growing up. I’ve watched him do everything in golf. That’s the reason I pushed myself to get to where I am now, it was watching him.”

A novice compared to Mickelson in the game’s biggest events, MacIntyre has now made the cut in all five majors he’s teed up in, finishing joint-sixth in the 2019 Open then tying for 12th in The Masters in April.

Tiger and Phil

He was “livid” after having to settle for a share of 49th behind Mickelson at Kiawah Island after starting the final round with three straight birdies, but having let the dust settle, he is aiming to use that disappointment as part of his learning curve.

“I need to lower my expectations a little bit,” he admitted, with his next major test coming in the US Open at Torrey Pines in three weeks’ time before heading to Royal St George’s, where he played in 2017 Amateur Championship, for The Open in July.

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“I’m still young, but my expectations are so high of myself. No-one puts that on me, it’s just me. I expect so much to happen in such a short space of time when I feel I need to sit back and let things happen. It’s hard to say it and hard to do it, but I’ve just got to do that.”

MacIntyre said it was “brilliant” to hear that the R&A is hoping to have up to 30,000 fans per day at The Open, though, at the same time, he admitted that playing in front of the biggest crowd he has experienced in the Covid-19 world at Kiawah Island had been a bit unnerving.

Bob MacIntyre

“It’s so different over there,” he said of the restrictions in the US being more relaxed than Europe. “Sometimes I hit the ball into the crowd, and I was saying, ‘right, we’ve got to get everyone back here Mike [Thomson, his caddie] and as far away as possible’.

“It is just the way we have been re-taught how to go about life, not being close to anyone, and you are almost fearful of people. It’s as simple as that. Which is completely different as normally there is a buzz.”

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MacIntyre, who spearheads an eight-strong Caledonian contingent on this occasion, finished second to Austrian Bernd Wiesberger in the same event, though it was called Made in Denmark at the time, over the same course at HimmerLand two years ago following an epic last-day duel.

MacIntyre had made six birdies in the final round before seeing his hopes of a first European Tour win dashed by sending his tee shot at the 17th out of bounds as Wiesberger, who has since become one of his closest friends in game, triumphed by a shot.

Phil Mickelson

The pair are in the same group for the opening two rounds with the home country’s new star, Rasmus Hojgaard, with MacIntyre, who is also scheduled to play in Germany next week, insisting he wasn’t tempted to head home to Oban after a tough week both mentally and physically at Kiawah Island.

“No, I just keep going,” he said. “You are disappointed more weeks than you are happy with out here playing golf. It is just about learning from it. Obviously, the finish (on Sunday was not where we wanted to finish but we learned a lot.

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“Stats show we are in the right place, doing the right things, and it is just about staying patient and letting things happen.

“Last time here, I was a bit disappointed as the 17th hole cost me the tournament, but the 17th hole has been changed this year so there’s a positive (laughing).

“My golf games not changed much; I’ve just matured as a golfer. I’ve got Mike on the bag now, so it’s a different outlook on things and when I’m in contention I have a bit more maturity around what we are trying to do and a bit more conviction.”

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