Robert MacIntyre put a personal lockdown struggle behind him for good and claimed his maiden European Tour victory with a stunning birdie-birdie finish in the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown.
The 24-year-old from Oban, last year’s Tour rookie of the year, had a difficult time during the latter part of the coronavirus lockdown and admitted falling out of love with golf as he struggled with the lack of activity.
However he emerged from that with the help of a psychologist, made some key changes, found his game and his love for competition and crowned it with a spectacular finish at the Aphrodite Hills resort near Paphos.
He birdied the 17th – nearly holing out for an ace – and then got another birdie at the par five 18th to complete a seven-under par 64 and clinch victory from Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura by a shot.
In the special format of the event scores were levelled at the halfway point and again after three rounds, just 19 players surviving to yesterday’s final shoot-out.
Over two weeks playing at the PGA Cyprus National course in the Cyprus Open and the Showdown, MacIntyre was an incredible 38-under par for eight rounds, never shooting worse than a 68. Fittingly, yesterday’s 64 including a homeward half of 30 was his best of the fortnight.
“I’ve struggled mentally with the lockdown,” he admitted. “To come out of that and finally get over the line here, it means the world to me.
“The first nine to ten weeks of lockdown were fine, I was trying to lose weight and become stronger and I had a target, but when that finished there was nothing to do and I felt I was wasting time and wasting away.
“Everyone knows the support I get from my family and again it was huge. I spoke to my mum and she guided me in the right direction, I spoke to the psychologist, and even today that helped a lot.
“I knew the win was coming. My equipment wasn’t right for quite some time and I found what the problem was, fixed it, and now I’m swinging the best I’ve ever done and hitting the best shots. Even the putter turned up when I needed it.”
He always felt that when he put work in, his best game would return.
“I just didn’t have the motivation for a wee while there,” he said. “I wasn’t wanting to play, wasn’t enjoying it. I had to put myself through a bit of pain, go back and practise when I didn’t want to.
“When I finally got the bug back for playing, you could see the smile come back on my face. I’ve got to be enjoying my golf to play well.
“We’re finally back to where we’re meant to be.”
Coming down the final two holes tied with Kawamura, MacIntyre knew the 18th would probably yields a birdie, but he got his extra shot almost in the most spectacular way possible.
“We had 165, the wind had switched since a storm delay and it was more downwind,” he said. “I pulled (a nine-iron) slightly but it was always the right number, if I struck it well it was always pitching there.
“I thought it was in the hole to be honest, but less than a foot away’s okay, beggars can’t be choosers!”
MacIntyre also paid credit to caddie Mikey Thomson, winning in just the fifth tournament since the Lundin Links man went on his bag.
“I played a lot of golf with Stuart Manley who Mikey caddied for, and I was always impressed by him and got on with him,” said MacIntyre. “I needed a change and I knew he was the guy he wanted.
“I asked my manager Ian Stoddart to sound him out to see if he’d want to work with me and the minute I got the green light I was on the phone, saying `when can you start?’.
“He’s got a great mentality, he’s not afraid of anything, and it showed today at the end.”
MacIntyre’s win secures his spot in the season-ending DP World Championship in Dubai, but he’s already thinking beyond that, having only just missed out on a Masters invitation earlier this year but on target for a place in the World’s Top 50 and all that entails.
“I know the level I have to play to get in the Top 50,” he said. “The last six or seven weeks I’ve started to see the ball flight I’ve been looking for, I’m injury-free and I’m enjoying myself a bit – I was enjoying it at Wentworth but it just needed that equipment fix.
“Now I’ve just got to set my standards high, and keep playing with a smile on my face.”