Whatever happens in his career, Robert MacIntyre can always say that at about 10am on Thursday July 18, 2019 he led The Open Championship. On the biggest stage in golf, the 22-year-old lefty was going global.

All of sudden, golf scribblers from as far afield as the Hindustan Times, the Ashahi Shimbun, El Correo and La Gazzetta dello Sport were peering up at the leaderboard and whispering, ‘Where the hell is Oban?’

Well, they know now. With a poise and purpose which defied his tender years, MacIntyre kept his head while many others lost theirs and thrived on his major debut with a three-under 68 here at rigorous Royal Portrush.

When he rolled in a raking eagle putt from off the green on the fifth to vault to front, an image of the name “MacIntyre” perched proudly on top of the official scoreboards had probably already been framed and hung up in the doorway of theGlencruitten clubhouse.

“Once I eagled the fifth I was talking to Greg [his caddie] and saying, “Look, we’re leading The Open,” he said.

Less than two years ago, MacIntyre was getting his professional career under way with a win in Kuwait on the MENA Tour. Here in 2019, he was getting himself into the mix at The Open.

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“It’s come faster than I ever thought and I was expecting to have another year on the Challenge Tour,” added MacIntyre, who earned promotion from the second-tier circuit after just one season. “Life’s a roller coaster and we’ve just got to keep riding it.”

This was a moment to savour and he enjoyed it. The juices were certainly flowing. “On the fifth, I thought the club was too much,” he said of a deliberation over which one to clatter. “Greg said he didn’t like the driver, he wanted 3-wood. I was thinking it could come up short and leave me an awkward pitch.

“I ended up hitting driver. Greg was right, it was too much club. I was about two yards from going out of bounds, but I got a bit of luck and took advantage of it.”

Prior to that eagle, MacIntyre had got himself up and running with a birdie putt of some 20 feet on the first. There were long birdie putts too at seven and 17 while a delightfully executed dunt from Bobby Locke’s hollow on the treacherous 16th, which helped to safeguard his par, underlined the qualities of his short game.


MacIntyre is certainly not here to make up the numbers and his softly spoken declaration that he can mount a serious challenge spoke volumes for the confidence he has.

“I’ve only played 18 holes but I want to be in position come Sunday afternoon,” he said.

MacIntyre’s fellow Scot, Russell Knox, was happy enough with a one-under 70 which was his best first round in four Open appearances. After a morale-sapping practice round the other day, it was no wonder Knox was smiling.

“If had a day like I had on Tuesday, my bags would be getting packed by now,” he said. “I was horrendous. I left the course depressed about my game but on Wednesday, instead of playing the course I played the course on the range, hitting the shots I needed to hit out there and changing club every time. I really enjoyed it. I left the course feeling confident and happy.”

Connor Syme, meanwhile, opened with an eventful one-over 72. It started with a drive which nearly went out of bounds on the first but the subsequent salvage operation led to him holing his third shot from 90 odd yards for an unlikely birdie.

What the golfing gods giveth, they taketh away though and a double-bogey at 14 was followed by another leaked shot on 15 as the Fifer slipped back over-par.

“The first was amazing,” he said. “I thought it was lucky to still be in bounds and then I end up walking off with a three. Crazy.”

Paul Lawrie, in the 20th anniversary of his Open win at Carnoustie in 1999, slithered to bogeys at 17 and 18 in a 75 and was joined on that mark by his young protege, Sam Locke.