MacIntyre Regains Advantage In Rookie Of The Year Honours

Top-ranked Scot Robert MacIntyre heads to this week’s season-ender in Dubai just four rounds shy of being honoured with the prestigious European Tour ‘Rookie of the Year’ award after a gallant final round at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.

The Oban lefty picked-up 13 spots in muscling his way to a share of eighth-place courtesy of a closing round 68 in continuing heatwave conditions at Sun City.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood broke out in tears in ending a 22-month victory drought to defeat Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult with a par at the first extra play-off hole after both players had finished level on 12-under par.

Fleetwood cut a swath through the field thanks to three par-five eagle ‘3’s’ in six holes from the ninth to 14th holes but also dropping shots at 11 and 12.

Victory earned the soon-to-be father of two a cool $2.5m, the largest first prize cheque ever in golf and up $1/2m on last week’s then highest of $2m in Turkey.

Though the Nedbank top-prize will be overshadowed with a $3m the new record top purse to be handed to the winner in Dubai.

Fleetwood said: “The money is not what I am playing for and, I guess, being a golfer these days you have the chance at a young age to set you family up for life.

“It’s been a long time since I last won, so I am just very proud to be standing here and for everyone who goes along the journey with me.  It’s just really, really cool and when you win a tournament.”

Caddying for Kinhult, who had denied MacIntyre victory earlier this year at the British Masters, was Prestwick’s Mark Crane and who also caddied for Tyrrell Hatton in last year’s victorious Ryder Cup.

MacIntyre’s effort was his seventh top-10 in his 30 rookie events this year but in the more-important bigger Race to Dubai picture, the young Scot is back to the leading ‘rookie’ on the money list in moving up two spots to regain 11th place and with his nearest rival, American Kurt Kitayama struggling in bogeying his closing three holes in a 75 for a share of 30th place at Sun City.

It has seen the American, who has won three times this year also in his rookie year, drop two Race to Dubai places to 12th and now one behind his Scottish ‘rookie’ rival.

It now comes down to whoever finishes the highest in Sunday’s season concluding  DP World Tour Championship will win the prestigious Sir Henry Cotton ‘Rookie of the Year’ award.

After four average rounds last week at the Turkish Airlines Open and opening rounds of 73 and 76 in South Africa, MacIntyre finally found forward gears posting weekend scores of 65 and 68.

MacIntrye had capped Saturday’s showing with three birdies over his closing six holes and he continued that form into Sunday picking-up birdies on the first and fourth holes before the shot of his tournament in holing his second shot, and virtually from behind a three, for an eagle ‘2’ at the par-4 sixth hole.

He then birdied 10 and 13 to move to six-under for his round before losing a little gloss after bogeys on 16 and 17.

MacIntyre said:  “It was good and overall I’m delighted with the way I finished.

“After Friday’s 76, I thought ‘oh no we are struggling here’ but I worked on a few things on the range and they seem to be working.

“I don’t know how I am going to change for next year, it’s something to think about during my break.”

Eleven Scots have been honoured with the Sir Henry Cotton ‘Rookie of the Year’ award since the inaugural award in 1960 and with the last being Marc Warren in 2006.

MacIntyre not only now has to chance to join Warren but other great Scots in Bernard Gallacher (1968), Sam Torrance (1972), Sandy Lyle (1978), the late Gordon Brand Jnr (1982) and eight-time money list winner Colin Montgomerie (1988) as a ‘Rookie of the Year’.

He said:  “Winning Rookie of the Year would mean everything. That’s what you play golf for – the rewards.

“The reward of Rookie of the Year would be unbelievable.

“I’ve got another week to go. The game is finally turning from Friday and we are in good shape going into next week.”

MacIntyre will be a lone Scot in Dubai after Richie Ramsay finished outside the leading 50 headed to Dubai by ending his season 58th on the money list in posting a Nedbank last day 72 for a share of 42nd place on four-over par.

And Scott Jamieson signed off for a horror 77 for a five-over par tally and finish off his year dropping six places to 71st on the Race to Dubai.

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