If you want to be the best, then you have to beat the best. Robert MacIntyre has been mixing with the top brass on American soil these last few weeks in a series of shimmering, showpiece occasions featuring more big guns than a cannonade. 

This week, he’ll have a Texas shoot-out with the world No 1, Dustin Johnson at the WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay Championship in Austin.

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us? Well, it is actually. There are 64 players competing over the next three days of group matches but, come Sunday, there will be one man standing tall over the rest.

Johnson will be expected to be involved at the sharp end – then again, there are no guarantees in matchplay – but MacIntyre, the new kid in town, will be hoping to put up a good fight.

In a group for the Scottish debutant which also includes Kevin Na and Adam Long, the opportunity of a tussle with Masters champion Johnson will be as mouthwatering a prospect as a Texan barbecue.

MacIntyre, as ever, will not be overawed. “Nothing changes,” said the Oban left-hander who enjoyed a week off after missing the cut in The Players Championship. “It's a big draw but it's where you want to be. There are three guys to get past. I'll mark their cards and they'll mark mine and we will see who goes through."


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MacIntyre has always revelled in the cut-and-thrust, the ebb-and-flow and the sheer unpredictability of the matchplay format. He won the Scottish Amateur Championship, lost in the final of the Amateur Championship and put in some sturdy showings at the Walker Cup. It’s a style of golf – indeed, the purest form of golf – which suits his attacking gusto.

“I can’t wait for this, it’s right down my alley,” he added of a format that is par for the course in the amateur game but not as common an occurrence on the professional scene. “I remember the Amateur final that I lost and Scott Gregory (his final opponent) must have got up-and-down out of the bunker about eight or nine times. He thinned a flop shot, it hit the flag and dropped down right next to to the hole. You need a bit of luck too. I could play absolutely brilliantly this week and lose every match. I could play mediocre stuff and win every match.

“There is no guide, no plan, just be aggressive and play my golf. When someone tells me to stop playing, that’s when it’s over. 

“When the gun goes off on Wednesday, it’s time to fight. It’s a dogfight day in, day out.

“In matchplay, I can go out and make a 20 on one hole, or have four horrific holes and seven great holes and you win.

“So give me that driver, it’s getting hit. You can’t worry about hitting a bad shot because a double or a triple only means losing one hole.

‘You’re not punished half as much as you are in stroke play, where you are out of the tournament if you make a triple bogey. I love strokeplay, but it’s good to get a little change.”


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The change may do him good. After a rallying finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, MacIntyre, who admits he’s not firing on all cylinders, departed early from The Players Championship the following week in something of a rare event. It was a first missed cut in 21 events. 

“It was the first one in quite a while but to not be competing at the weekend annoys me,” added MacIntyre, who at least got the opportunity for a blether about all things golf with Sandy Lyle while on Sawgrass soil. “I’m there to win a golf tournament, after all. Three-over-par at Sawgrass wasn’t as bad as it should have been. It could have been millions more. But you are always on the edge in golf and never that far away from your best form. That’s how it feels right now. It’s close.”

At 44th on the world rankings, meanwhile, MacIntyre is so close to a Masters invitation, he can just about smell Augusta’s pimento cheese sandwiches. If he’s still in the top-50 by the qualification cut-off a week on Sunday, he’ll have Georgia on his mind. 

For the time being, though, it’s all about Austin. “Until the invitation drops through the door, I’ll not be at Augusta,” he said.