Bob MacIntyre opens up on Covid lockdown mental battle after maiden European Tour win

Bob MacIntyre revealed the strain of the COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year had led to his emotional reaction after claiming a maiden European Tour win with victory in the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown.

Bob MacIntyre poses with the trophy after winning the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown at Aphrodite Hills in Paphos. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Bob MacIntyre poses with the trophy after winning the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown at Aphrodite Hills in Paphos. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 24-year-old from Oban, who had been third on the same course in the Cyprus Open seven days earlier, recorded his breakthrough in style with a sensational finish in the ground-breaking event at the Pahos venue.

In a last-day 18-hole shoot-out involving just 19 players with the scores having been reset overnight, MacIntyre stormed home in 30, covering the last six holes in four-under-par for a seven-under 64 to become the 25th different Scot to taste victory on the circuit.

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The left-hander, who was crowned as European Tour Rookie of the Year in Dubai just under a year ago, made brilliant birdie-2s at both the 15th and 17th, coming with an inch of holing a 9-iron at the latter.

Having also birdied the tenth and 13th after turning for home, that left him tied for the lead with Masahiro Kawamura after the Japanese player had closed with a 65 to set the clubhouse target with a six-under 65.

Knowing he needed a birdie at the last to secure victory, the Scot hit one of the best drives of his life, spitting the fairway with a majestic 343-yard blow. That left him with just 156 yards for his second and, after safely finding the putting surface, it was job done as he calmly two-putted from around 20 feet for a closing birdie.

“This is what I’ve been working for,” said MacIntyre, who finished runner-up three times last season and also recorded a top-10 finish in his major debut in The Open at Royal Portrush, in an interview with Sky Sports Golf straight afterwards.

As the success started to sink in as he was interviewed by Tim Barter, the 2015 Scottish Amateur champion added: “It’s been a difficult few months for me and only my family know what’s going on.

“I cannae believe it. It is unbelievable. It’s what I've dreamed of as a wee kid watching Scottish Opens at Loch Lomond. I gave myself a lot of chances last year. This week the format suited me and we took it out.”

Speaking later in his post-round media interview, MacIntyre opened up on how difficult he’d found the COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year, even though it meant it allowed him to spend time with his parents, Carol and Dougie, and other family members in his beloved hometown on the west coast.

“The first nine-ten weeks were fine,” he said. “I had things to do, trying to lose weight, become stronger, set myself goals and was doing it alongside another person from my area – Stevie.

“We were on Peloton almost every day. We had a target, and when that finished there was nothing for us to do. I was wasting time, wasting away and started to struggle. But everyone knows my family is right behind me and the support I get from them is huge. I spoke to my mum and she guided me in the right direction. I also went to see Paul, a psychologist, who has helped me hugely.

“I just struggled mentally from about eight/ten weeks after lockdown, almost when it opened up slightly. You felt you were getting released into the open but were still getting told what to do. That was tough for me.”

This win has lifted MacIntyre from 57th to 24th in this season’s Race to Dubai, securing his spot in the DP World Tour Championship in the UAE next month, while he is also set to climb to a career-high 62nd in the world rankings from 91st.

“My game is there,” he said, savouring a success that has come as no surprise to anyone MacIntyre has come across on the European Tour over the past two seasons. “Tee to green I’ve been absolutely brilliant the last two weeks. The putter has been cold, stone cold.”

Referring to a 48-minute delay just as the final round was starting to get down to the nitty gritty, with him sharing the lead at that point with Kawamura and England’s Marcus Armitage, he added: “I said to Mike [Thompson, his caddie] ‘it’s time to show up’. I then missed a putt on 14 but hit a great iron shot into 15 and there it was, turned up at the right time The 7-iron shot into 15 then 9-iron into 17 iron were key moments. I’d say 17 was huge when I saw the scores.

As for that impressive drive at the last, he revealed he’d remembered a piece of advice given to him by his dad Dougie, who is the greenkeeper at Glencruitten Golf Club in Oban. “I just teed it up,” he said, smiling. “The one thing my dad told me was tee it high and let it fly – that’s what it got.”

MacIntyre’s victory came in just his 45th start on the top tour, where he has already amassed earnings of more than £2.32 million, having secured a pay-day worth £180,000 for this week’s work.

“This is the best,” he said in reply to where the performance ranked, bearing in mind that his tie for sixth behind Shane Lowry in The Open in particular had been an exceptional effort. “I hit some of the best shots I’ve hit in my life coming down that stretch.

“The 7-iron into 15, I thought it was almost going in the hole as well as the one on 17. Knowing you can hit the shots under the gun when it’s most needed.”

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