Masters: Mesmerizing Robert MacIntyre throws caution to the wind
Day three of The Masters was going along quite the thing until the weather closed in, the thunder rumbled, there was a threat of (...)
Day three of The Masters was going along quite the thing until the weather closed in, the thunder rumbled, there was a threat of lightning and the players were hauled off the course.
It was all a bit of a scunner. For those finding the going tough, a suspension can offer time to take stock, regroup and gather thoughts. For those making decent headway, it can be the kind of momentum stopper you would get with a fender bender on the Washington Road.
And for those with space to fill on TV, the wireless, the inter-thingamabob and the good auld newspaper, it can lead to the kind of padding you used to get in the shoulders of the jackets on an episode of Dynasty.
Whatever the situation, you just have to grin and bear it. For Masters debutant, Robert MacIntyre, the chance to savor every little thing about Augusta has been gobbled up with considerable relish. Even the untimely adjournment of affairs would probably have been viewed as a tradition like no other.
MacIntyre’s appearance in the last two rounds was wonderfully welcomed and rightly championed and the front nine of his third round yesterday was the kind of captivating, topsy-turvy performance that should have been accompanied by its own warning from the Georgia Met Office.
Over the course of nine holes, this fearless left-hander scribbled down just two pars. For the record, his outward half went like this: bogey, birdie, birdie, bogey, par, birdie, bogey, birdie, par. You certainly get your money’s worth with this intrepid young man.
With a bold sense of adventure, MacIntyre has always been a player who throws caution to the wind. Augusta is a mighty adversary, but the 24-year-old has enjoyed locking horns with it. The last couple of days has proved, once again, that the Scot has the admirable bounce-back-ability of a football manager’s cliche.
Before the horn was tooted, MacIntyre had made a six on the par-five 13th but, like his front nine, the salvage operation was swift and serene and a lovely putt from the fringe of the 14th green dropped in for a birdie.
In the end, a second successive 70 for a two-under tally had him lurking in the top-10. It has been a wonderful debut.
“The way I play golf, it’s aggressive,” he said. “No matter where I play or who I’m playing with, I’m going after things. The way my scorecard goes, it’s a roller coaster, and it’s the way I play golf.
“I’m not here just to make up the numbers. I’m here because I got here on merit, and I’m here to win a golf tournament. If I wasn’t trying to win this golf tournament, I’d be sitting at home with my feet up watching it.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen. If I can go and shoot five, six-under par, we’ll set back and watch it all unfold. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a chance.”
When the third day was all said and done, the terrific Hideki Matsuyama had propelled himself on to 11-under with a marvelous 65 as Xander Schaufelle, Justin Rose, Marc Leishman, Will Zalatoris and others grasped at his coattails.
Matsuyama’s back nine of 30, which was highlighted by an eagle on the 15th, was a wonderful assault. The man for the land of the rising sun had mounted a rousing surge and, in his quest for a maiden major, was well in command.
MacIntyre has emerged as something of a have-a-go hero. His fellow left-hander Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, has been having a go for years. At 50-years-old, the three-time Masters champion can still stir the senses despite the advancing years.
Mickelson’s love for the thrill of the chase remains unwavering while his long-standing sense of adventure, artistry and cavalier recklessness remains a joy to behold as he courts risk and reward with a fearless disregard.
Having just sneaked into the weekend with a three-over total, Mickelson got himself ambling up the order with a three-under 69 which was finished with a trademark flourish.
The former Open champion found the bunker off the 18th tee and then plonked his second shot into the sand at the front of the green.
The Mickelson magic came to the fore, though, and he produced an act of wizardry that would have had Merlin returning to the practice area in an effort to sharpen up. His wonderfully controlled dunt out the trap grabbed the green, spun to the flag and ended up within a couple of feet of the flag. It was a fine par save which was a hallmark of Mickelson’s mercurial majesty.
“This was a round, the first time in a long time, where I scored, where I just kept saving shots and putting it in the right spot,” he said. “I didn’t really strike it as well as I did the first few days, but I scored. I got up and down a lot, and it felt good to shoot a number at least.”
The firm and fast conditions for the 85th edition of The Masters has been clearly up Mickelson’s street and he added: “In my opinion, it’s set up perfectly to identify the best player, and the guys that are striking it well are up on the leaderboard, the guys that are putting it well. I love seeing it like this because you can score low, but you also need to respect it.”
There’s still life in the old dog yet. “The challenge that gets the best out of me is trying to play and compete against the best players,” he said.
Glasgow’s Martin Laird was also among the early finishers and his 72 left him on a one-over total. On a day of delays, it was good to get home and hosed.
Nick Rodger writes for the Glasgow National, part of the USA Today Network. Hence the multiple references to “football” (meaning Scottish soccer, we assume).