Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre turned his tournament around the PGA Championship to shoot a three-under 67 and make the weekend’s play at the first post-lockdown major championship.
The 24-year-old from Oban is playing in his first US major, having had a top ten finish in his major debut at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush last year, and he struggled to a three-over 73 on the opening day.
However playing with former Masters champion Patrick Reed and multiple tour winner Kevin Na, Macintyre made light of the better morning weather conditions at Harding Park in San Francisco and had made a fine up and down from short and right of the green on the 515-yard ninth – his final hole – holing out from six feet to ensure that he finished 36 holes at even par.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for the Scot who won the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2019, having to quarantine in Los Angeles before getting a last minute spot at the WGC in Memphis last week, and heading on to San Francisco.
“I managed to scrape a couple of birdies early in the round and I always thought that one-over would get in, but coming up the last I could see that it wasn’t in yet,” he said. “It was nice to get that par at my last hole to just about secure the cut.
“I wasn’t far off yesterday. The wind was as hard as I’ve played in with this condition of golf course, where if you miss a fairway, you’re chipping out.
“I couldn’t find a lie in the rough right up until the last hole there, when I managed to find one where I could get it up near the green.
“I find that the wider you miss, the more likely you are to have a shot, up near the cart paths. If you miss the fairway by a couple of yards, you’re hacking out.”
Although you’d think that the cypress tree-lined Harding Park would be alien to a boy from Oban, but this kind of golf suits his game, he added.
“I went to college in Louisiana for a while so I know how to play here. I hit it high, usually straight and it suits my game.
“I played Walker Cup at LA Country Club and the US Amateur at Riviera and Bel-Air so I know California golf pretty well as well.”
The aim for the weekend is to press on to try and get to his target of getting in the World’s Top 50.
“I’m in that bubble just outside it at the moment, and getting into that is the focus, whether that’s out here in the US or back in Europe,” he said.
“One I’m in the top 50, I can play out here as well as back home. The best players in the world are out here so if you get yourself in that position to play, you’ve got to take it.”
China’s Haotong Li, the former Dubai Desert Classic winner, is the early leader in the second round at Harding Park after following up his first round 67 with a 65 for a total of eight-under. He’s two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood, the Englishman shooting a best of the week so far 64 in the morning wave, while another Englishman, Paul Casey, is on five-under.