Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre has been given the prime draw of World No 1 Dustin Johnson on the first three day of the WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay but he’ll treat DJ the same as anyone.
The Scot was drawn in group one with the Masters champion, Kevin Na and Adam Long for the round robin stages of the event at Austin Country Club, which begins Wednesday.
MacIntyre admits he’s been struggling a bit for form in his month-long sojourn to the US, playing in the WGC event in Florida, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a debut at the Players Championship, but he reckons the Matchplay “is right up my alley”.
‘I’ll mark their card and they’ll mark mine’
“Nothing changes,” he said of the draw. “There are still three guys to get past.
“It’s a big draw but it’s where you want to be so no complaints. I’ll mark their cards and they’ll mark mine and we will see who goes through in the end.
“I’ll be nervous on the first tee – if you aren’t nervous there’s something wrong, you’re playing the wrong game. It’s one v one this week, anyone can beat anyone on a given day.”
‘There’s great chances to light that fire’
Matchplay lends itself to his favoured aggressive game, he feels, and the shoot-out nature of his first tour win in Cyprus – then it was lowest score on the final day won – showed that.
“First, I don’t need to concern myself with the other 63 guys, only the individual I’m playing that day,” he said. “You also know that you can have a seven on one hole and it’s just that one hole. In strokeplay you might be out if the tournament, here you’ve got 17 other holes to make it up.
“You also can’t get done with the draw. It’s only two of you and you both have the same weather.
“The course is perfect for Matchplay. It’s going to be some fun. It’s one of those courses where you are never beaten. You could be five down through five, but there’s still great chances where you could light that fire.
“I could play absolutely brilliantly this week and lose every match. I could play mediocre and win every match. Until you play, you have no clue how the other guy will be playing. You give it your best and see who walks out at the end.”
“There’s no guide or plan, just be aggressive and see where I end up. I’ll just keep playing until they tell me it’s time to stop.”
‘I’m trying to jump in the deep end and swim’
MacIntyre admits he’s been piecing together his game the last three weeks in Florida, as he hasn’t been happy with his ball-striking.
“I’ve been having to work hard, fight every day when I’ve been on the golf course,” he said. “I’ve not had my game, but that’s golf, you’re not going to have it all the time.
“I wasn’t trying to settle in (to playing in the US), I’m trying to jump in the deep end and swim. But I’ve played three golf courses now where you can’t just fake it round. I couldn’t hit the shots I was seeing and I had to rely on short game.
“Finishing where I did at the Arnold Palmer was actually a steal, given how I was playing. At Sawgrass I was annoyed on the weekend because I was there to compete, not just for the experience.
“Three-over wasn’t as bad as it should have been. We’ve worked hard this last week, I played 18 holes yesterday and it’s night and day to what it was there.”
‘An issue of timing’
MacIntyre’s coach David Burns came over to the States to check him over and confirmed that it was just small adjustments that were required.
“It’s an issue of timing, really,” said Robert. “We lose our game every now and again, it’s always on the edge.
“But you’re always close to getting back to the best form. Sometimes it feels like it’s miles away but it isn’t that far away. We’re swinging the same way it was in Dubai.”
The cut off point for getting an invite to the Masters by way of his world ranking is at next week’s Texas Open, and reaching the last 16 would probably cement his place, but MacIntyre still refuses to even think about that.
“If an invite comes through the door, that’s when I’ll think about it,” he said. “If I play good golf it takes care of everything. I haven’t worried about it up to now, so why start?”
A familiar face – eventually – on the range
That said, he made a good contact on the range at Sawgrass if he does get to head up Magnolia Drive.
“There’s loads of people on the range so we’re looking for a spot, stopped the cart and I’m looking at this guy, thinking: “Jeez, that guy looks a good player.”
“Then I saw the Saltire on his shoe and thought: `Hang on, is that Sandy Lyle?’ We spoke a bit, it wasn’t planned. He was such a nice guy, gave me the time of day, chatted away to me.
“Okay, he’s done what he’s done in golf and it’s incredible, but he’s just normal and we chatted just about normal life.
“I don’t stand there in awe of him. There’s nothing glamorous about it. It’s just guys playing golf. It’s all good.”