MacIntyre takes rookie glory in Dubai

Robert MacIntyre has capped a brilliant debut season on the European Tour by winning the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.

Robert MacIntyre

The Scotsman emerged on top from a bumper crop of 2019 rookies that produced two multiple winners and four players who made it to the season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai as he finished 11th on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex.

American Kurt Kitayama finished three places below him, with Italian Guido Migliozzi and Spaniard Adri Arnaus finishing 40th and 41st respectively.

The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award has laid the platform for some of the European Tour's greatest careers and has a rich history of Scottish winners.

Nobody has played more events than 1972 winner Sam Torrance and nobody has been European Number One more times than 1988 winner Colin Montgomerie.

Sandy Lyle went on to win two Major Championships after winning it in 1978 and at just 23, the sky is the limit for MacIntyre.

"I'm absolutely delighted," said MacIntyre, who also becomes the Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year. "Halfway through the season when it became on the radar that we could win both awards, it's something that we set out to do. Today we've finally achieved it and now I'm absolutely over the moon for it.

"I've enjoyed the battle. The last few weeks have been hard because I've been looking over my shoulder until last week when I got overtaken.

"But I could only control what I can control and that was putting some good golf shots on display and I finally managed to put in two good rounds this week to seal it off.

"Family's everything to us. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them giving up so much time. My dad works two jobs, my mum previously worked three, four jobs. Now she's starting to cool it down a wee bit but that's nice. 

"It's been down to them and they have given me the chance. Now I just thank them so much."

MacIntyre and Kitayama

It would be fair to say that MacIntyre did not set the European Challenge Tour alight in 2018, finishing second and sixth in his final two events to finish 12th on the Rankings and win his European Tour card.

"The Challenge Tour has made me the player I am today," he said. "I've learned how to travel on my own. I've learned how to just spend time in my own company so it couldn't be better."

The rookie race looked to be a forgone conclusion when Qualifying School graduate Kitayama won two of his first ten events but while MacIntyre was not matching his rival's trophy haul, he was certainly matching his work rate.

MacIntyre played every week there was an event he was exempt for right up until the Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa in the middle of March - won by Migliozzi - making ten cuts from 11 events.

A month later a missed cut in Morocco proved to be a turning point before he truly announced himself with back to back second places at the Betfred British Masters and Made in Denmark presented by FREJA.

"We were in Morocco, missed the cut," said MacIntyre. "I wasn't enjoying golf. I didn't even want to be playing golf, if I'm honest with you, that week.

"So I took the week off, went and played some shinty, and then that made me realise what life was about. It was an away game on the bus with the boys enjoying ourselves and made me realise that the job I'm doing isn't a job. 

"You're doing it because you enjoy it and that's the mindset I've had for the last 17 events and has made me realise - don't find it a chore. Go and enjoy it every week, every day. And that's what I've done. Here we are."

Those runner up finishes catapulted MacIntyre up the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex as Kitayama's form cooled, but Migliozzi won the Belgian Knockout to stay right in the mix.

Playing alongside superstars Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler dulled the disappointment of missing the cut on home soil at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open but better was to come.

The following week at Royal Portrush Golf Club MacIntyre finished sixth at The Open Championship and now the world was paying attention.

We're just going to keep shooting for the stars and see where we go

A second place finish at the Porsche European Open put MacIntyre in control of the rookie race but Kitayama was not done, reclaiming top spot after top fives at the Amundi Open de France and Italian Open, and a play-off defeat at Turkish Airlines Open.

A top ten at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player edged MacIntyre less than 100 points ahead of Kitayama with one event to go, setting up a showdown in the desert.

The pair teed off together on day one and were just one shot apart after 36 holes before MacIntyre went 68-69 over the weekend to take the rookie crown.

"I've been shooting at the top 50 in the world for the last four or five weeks," he said. "We've fallen just short but the season's opened up doors for me, it's opened up WGC events.

"Next year, if I continue to do what I'm doing on the golf course, then in my own head, it's a matter of time.

"It opens doors for us now and we're just going to keep shooting for the stars and see where we go."

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