Robert MacIntyre’s shouting playing Call of Duty on the Playstation late on Wednesday may have annoyed the neighbours but he came roaring out of the blocks at the Betfred British Masters.
The Scot birdied the first five holes, negotiated a couple of mid-round crises and then birdied the last two for a six-under 66.
He’s now tied for the lead at the halfway point with his countryman and stablemate Calum Hill (70) on seven-under. The veteran Englishman Richard Bland is also on that mark, splitting up the Scots from playing together in Friday’s third round.
MacIntyre and Hill share the same manager and swing coach but have never played together in completion. It seems possible they might have a chance to do so at some point this weekend at the head of the field at the Belfry.
Relaxing with the PS5 and a headset
Switching off while off the course is the best way to prepare for MacIntyre, and at tournaments he does it with long online Playstation sessions with his mates, playing the shooter Call of Duty.
“I grab room service and I will be on the Playstation for a couple of hours with my pals. Taking that with me is a huge stress reliever.
“I feel sorry for the people with rooms next to me because it’s half eleven at night, no matter the tee time, I’m roaring at my pals on the headset. But it means when I come here and compete it’s 100% focus.
Fresh from his Masters performance, MacIntyre came into this event as the top-ranked player in the field. He needed just a first round 71 to get his eye in, a range session to sort a long game issue, and he lived completely up to his billing.
He hit into two feet at the first, buried a 20-footer at the second, had an easy chip and putt at the long third, and then found the cup from 20 feet at the fourth.
After the fifth birdie in succession, it crashed to a halt when he hit into the lake off the tee at the sixth, but MacIntyre is not deterred from taking everything on, it seems.
He got back in the groove by nearly aceing the 14th – site of Nick Faldo’s Ryder Cup hole in one – and polished it all off with a standard four at the 17th and a fine five-iron to 15 feet for birdie at the last.
‘At the start I was in free flow’
“After yesterday I was thinking we were a wee bit too far behind,” he admitted. “But I know my strengths tee to green and this is a course where you really have to strike it.
“At the start I was in free flow. It felt beautiful, and I guess that could have been a crazy score today. I still missed quite a few chances but you will do, that’s golf.
“I’m probably not striking it quite as good as I can but I’m making up for that with the putter.”
The confidence to rebound after the problems at the sixth – “the drop wasn’t pretty either” – is becoming a Robert’s hallmark. He just goes for everything.
“It’s the way I play golf. The sixth could have been disastrous but you just have to commit. “Really, once it leaves the club it’s in the lap of the gods. I just watch and pray that it flies.”
Mike Thomson’s late intervention
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 13, 2021
At the second to the 18th green, caddie Mike Thomson – although hirpling after an insect bite – stepped in.
“It was a five-iron, I wanted to hit four. But Mike was like no, that brings long in and it’s 207 to the back,” said MacIntyre. “It was the perfect length and a great way to finish.
“I have a gameplan here for every hole. I’ll just stick to that, keeping hitting the ball where we are hitting it, and just try to sharpen up a couple of short game shots.”
Hill had edged to an outright lead with a steady performance in the equally steady rain, but he dropped back into a share with MacIntyre and the 48-year-old Bland, who hasn’t dropped a shot in rounds of 68 and 69.
‘If you go long you’re gubbed’
"It's a very tricky shot."
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 13, 2021
“Two fives to finish, it is what it is,” said the 26-year-old from Crook of Devon in Perthshire. “17 doesn’t really suit my shape of shot and we all know the last hole is a brute.
“If you go long (with the pin on the third and upper tier) you’re gubbed. I just misjudged the putt from the middle tier. The putt back was good but just a tiny bit high.”
He was however content with a two-under 70 given that he’d had an upset stomach on Wednesday night. He didn’t eat anything during the round and energy levels weren’t quite as they could be.
“I didn’t quite have the long game dialled in today,” he said. “But to still be leading is great because if it comes back then I’ll be really comfortable.
‘It was a get through the day thing’
“We’ll go and have a short range session and I’m sure it’ll be right tomorrow. I just felt a little off today, felt a bit grim.
“It was a get through the day thing rather than a shoot 65 day. So I’m pretty pleased how it went.”
Former winner Eddie Pepperell is probably the biggest threat just one off the lead after rounds of 70 and 68. He feels that with regular play he’s getting back to the form of Walton Heath in 2017.
Eddie found that all the time he had off during the pandemic might have been good for his head, but not so much for his golf.
“I thought the three months I had off last year were going to be really good for me,” he said. “You know, de-stress and it’s probably good overall for the system.
“But in terms of playing the game of golf, which clearly is a very technical game, it’s not been great. I’ve just fallen in some bad habits, and I’ve had such a hard time getting out of them.
“I’m still on that journey, but I think I’ll get there.”