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After a year of COVID-related warnings about doing this, not doing that and certainly avoiding a bit of the other, Robert MacIntyre’s own message of caution could’ve been delivered from a lectern with a professor of virology nodding along beside him.
“Don’t travel with anyone, don’t be around anyone and don’t do something stupid,” MacIntyre said in preparation for this week’s abrdn Scottish Open, which will welcome a power-packed field in advance of next week’s British Open. Four of the world’s top five players will be on hand.
“Once you get hit with a bit of bad luck, you’re always on your guard.”
That dollop of bad luck visited MacIntyre the other week when he was tracked, traced and identified as a contact of somebody who had tested positive for Coronavirus on the transatlantic flight the Scot took home from the U.S. Open.
That forced MacIntyre to withdraw from last week’s Irish Open and plunged him into a period of self-isolation ahead of this week’s $8 million event at The Renaissance.
MacIntyre, of course, is quite happy to keep himself to himself. As long as he has his trusty Playstation games console, the 24-year-old can easily settle into a life of solitude that would make the Hermit of Gully Lake look like Keith Moon.
An enforced week off has hampered MacIntyre’s preparations for the domestic showpiece but the World No. 51, who did return a negative test, has taken it all with shrugging acceptance.
“The beach was too busy to hit balls off the balcony,” he joked of a makeshift driving range from his apartment in Oban, a resort town on the country’s west coast. “We just had to take it on the chin.”
With a huge week coming up on home soil, though, and The Open Championship looming on the horizon, MacIntyre’s brush with the menace of Covid has sharpened the senses.
“I was obviously disappointed not to play last week, it would have been a good warm-up, but I have to take no risks now,” he added. “I’ll not be around anyone, just my family and my team. I’ll drive down to The Open myself. I was meant to go on the charter flight, but I’m not even doing that.
“If my friends are inviting me out to dinner right now, I have to say ‘no’. I’m not risking what I can gain from my job just to have a meal out in a restaurant. I’d rather have someone round for a meal. I’m not the best cook … but it’s hard to burn a steak.”
It’s a meaty time of the season and, as Scotland’s leading player on the world order, MacIntyre will be carrying the weight of expectation. Not that he’s bothered.
“What you guys put on me is what you guys put on me, so why worry about it?” he said of us in the golf writing business. “My biggest critic is my dad. No matter what I do this week, he’s going to criticize something, but that’s just normal. I’ve been off for two weeks but I’m as prepared as I can be. It’s been a bit of a mad scramble the last couple of days trying to get myself ready.”
MacIntyre has been grouped with Lee Westwood and World No. 4 Collin Morikawa for the opening two days in East Lothian. A limited number of spectators have been allowed into The Renaissance – the first time crowds have been at a tour event on Scottish soil since the Dunhill Links in 2019 – and MacIntyre is determined to revel in the atmosphere.
“There shouldn’t be many against you this week,” he said with a smile.
After a delightful spell of weather recently, Edinburgh and the Lothians was hit by the kind of biblical torrents that would have had Noah digging out the sou’wester and brolly. The deluge has certainly softened up The Renaissance course but the changes that have been made to the host venue over the last few months have been met with MacIntyre’s approval.
“There’s a lot more definition on the course,” he said. “You’re standing on some tees and it does look more daunting. I think that’s a great thing because you know you’re not standing there smashing driver like you could before.”
As well as chasing the prestige and considerable prize pot of the Scottish Open title, MacIntyre and his fellow Scots will also be playing for the Jock MacVicar Memorial Trophy, a new award dedicated to the dearly departed Doyen of Scottish golf writing. It will be a fitting tribute.