Robert MacIntyre is the only Scot playing at Sandwich, but that won’t make him shy away from the inevitable focus – instead he embraces the Saltire.
Just one Scottish player in the Open is an obvious all-time low, caused by the absence of staple entrants Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie, and the lack of final qualifying opportunities due to covid restrictions. The previous low was four at Hoylake in 2006.
But it’s equally rare in recent times that we have a live contender like MacIntyre, a player around the World’s Top 50, comfortable in links golf who knows the track and relishes – really relishes – carrying the Saltire.
‘You’re fighting for the flag’
“I compete because I love the fight,” he said. “Week to week it changes with your mental state, your emotions, how you feel.
“But you come to an Open and you’re the only Scot, you’re fighting for the flag. I mean, I just love seeing the Scotland flag. Everything about Scotland is brilliant.
‘As long as I’m playing this game, I’ll be flying the flag for Scotland as much as I can. It’s in the blood, I’m fully Scottish, through and through.”
And whether there’s one or 21 Scots in the Open, he knows there will be plenty of his countrymen and women behind the ropes.
“You know if there are any Scottish fans here this week, they’ll all have my back,” added MacIntyre.
‘It’s not like I’m playing somewhere there aren’t going to be Scottish fans there to cheer me on.
“Of course there will be people going against you. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing. But there are going to be a fair few Scots here, I think, so I’m going to be all right on that side of things.”
‘I’m here to compete, not to learn’
Robert had an incredible debut two years ago at Royal Portrush, finishing sixth. But that was just a training run, and things are different this time.
“It’s the belief,” he said. “Two years ago I pitched up just trying to learn. This year I’ve earned my spot.
“I’m here to compete, not here to learn. Although I finished sixth in Portrush, I was doing everything I could to learn. This year I’ve proved that I can compete. So I’m certainly not here to make up the numbers.
“If I do better than sixth, I’ll be walking down 18 with a smile on my face, regardless of the outcome.
‘It’s the dream when you’re growing up, to have a chance to win any major – but the Open especially. If I’m inside the top six coming down the back nine on Sunday afternoon, I’m going at it. I’ll lay it all on the line.”
‘As much of an advantage as we can get’
MacIntyre has a prize draw for the first two days, Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele.
“If I could have picked a draw myself, Xander would have been in there after last week,” he said. “I get on great with him, and Rickie is another good guy.
“We’re pretty late (nearly 3pm), and I wouldn’t normally watch the morning golf but I’m sure I’ll switch it on at some point.
“Mike (Thomson, his caddie) will watch it for little tips and to see certain shots into certain greens. It’s little things for as much of an advantage as we can get.”