If you’re going to make a splash, then the 17th hole on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass is probably the easiest place to do it. Water, water everywhere? With a peninsula-style green surrounded by the wet stuff, the devilish par-3 would give the Ancient Mariner a bout of the heebie-jeebies.

As for Sawgrass debutant Robert MacIntyre? Well, he didn’t make a splash in the water but he certainly made waves with a jovial trick shot during a final practice round ahead of his maiden voyage at the money-soaked Players Championship.

If you haven’t glimpsed it yet – and given the rampant circulation of the clip there are probably village elders from some remote tribe discussing it around the fire by now – MacIntyre, with his back to the hole, dinked a reverse chip from the walkway just short of the green straight into the hole. The left-hander performed the shot with his right-hand too. Those ambidextrous qualities forged on the shinty field come in handy.


“I’ve never hit that shot in my life,” said the 24-year-old from Oban with a cheery beam. “You’re probably expecting me to hit this thing in the water, if I hit it at all. It just came off a little bit thin, but dead on line. How it went in the hole, I don't know. It's just pot luck.”

Sometimes you need a little bit of that in this game. The serous business, of course, starts today for MacIntyre in a shimmering showpiece that features 48 of the world’s top 50 players and a whopping first prize of some £2 million.

It is the latest stop in MacIntyre’s lucrative American road trip which started with the WGC Workday Championship, moved to the Arnold Palmer Invitational and is now parked up at Sawgrass.

At No 42 in the world, MacIntyre continues to find his feet among the global elite and his spirited showing at Bay Hill last weekend, where he made the cut and then finished with a flourish, gave him some positives to build on.

In the closing 18-holes, MacIntyre had made two double-bogeys on his first six holes but mounted a sturdy salvage operation and covered his final 10 holes in four-under to post a level-par round. It was a timely tonic heading into this, the biggest event of the season thus far.

“I hadn’t been hitting it that great and my coach was on red alert last Sunday morning at an airport,” said MacIntyre of the possibility of getting his coach out to the US for some fine tuning and running repairs. “I got my caddie to send him (his coach) some videos while we were on the range and he just gave us little swing thoughts that we managed to take out on the golf course. I was four-over through six holes but I felt like I was playing good golf. I was still huffing and puffing saying, ‘such a bad start’, but my caddie says ‘it's a start, it doesn't matter, it's a start’. We just found confidence throughout the round and started hitting better shots, one after another.”

Negotiating the abundant perils and pitfalls of the Stadium Course will be another test of MacIntyre’s mettle and the young Scot is relishing the opportunity “As a left-hander, there are some holes where the tee shots are going to be difficult because of the doglegs, overhanging trees and stuff like that,” noted MacIntyre, who has been grouped with Louis Oosthuizen and the in-form Lee Westwood for the first two rounds. “But if I control my ball the way I know I can, then it doesn't matter what's in my way."

A year ago, The Players Championship was brought to a shuddering halt after just one round as the coronavirus pandemic intensified, the tournament was cancelled and the tour ended up being suspended for three months. Rory McIlroy, the winner of the title in 2019, remains the defending champion. The Northern Irishman remains a figure to admire for MacIntyre too. “He plays golf the way I love to see golf being played,” he said.

MacIntyre was still almost 10 years from being born when the trail-blazing Scot, Sandy Lyle, became the first non-American to triumph at Sawgrass in 1987. “I've seen footage of that,” he said with a nod to nostalgia. “Obviously Sandy is a legend back home. If we're in contention come Sunday, then we'll give it everything we've got.”

After his magic moment in practice, MacIntyre will be hoping he has a few more tricks up his sleeve this week.