The Scottish Open is traditionally the warm up tournament for the OpenChampionship as it is always played the week before what is now the last major event of the year. Since 2019 the tournament has been hosted by the Renaissance Club outside of Edinburgh in the town of North Berwick. This year the tournament was designated as a qualifying event for the PGA Tour with points counting towards the Fed Ex championship and rankings. The course is a traditional links style course, which is why the best players in the world get together to prepare for this year’s championship, which will be held at Royal Liverpool. The course is traditional links and scores were low and bunched up mainly due to the absence of wind. The fourth round would test the best players in the world as the wind blew significantly and any scores under par would be a pretty good achievement.
Rory McIlroy has been knocking on the door to win a tournament for the past several weeks as he driving length advantage has been offset by indifferent iron shots and generally poor putting. His 2023 performance at the majors seemed like this situation was going to change and this week would be the week. McIlroy was in the mix with a batch of players at the top including Tom Kim, Ben An and Tommy Fleetwood. On Sunday, in the worst conditions of the week, Scottish professional Robert MacIntyre made a serious run at the championship defying the windy conditions on the back nine on Sunday. He started the back nine with an eagle on 10 and eventually would break through and take the tournament lead with a terrific birdie on 18. The eighteenth hole was the deciding hole for the tournament and on Sunday, played at 4.67 for a par 4. The longest drive on 18 into the teeth of the 25 mph wind was 270 yards. MacIntyre smashed a hybrid club 200 yards plus about 4 inches above the ground as the shot ripped through the wind resting about 6 feet from the hole. MacIntyre would sink the putt and take the lead with McIlroy still on the course one shot behind with the toughest holes coming in. MacIntyre signed his card and retreated to the Players’ Lounge to await his fate. He knew that one of the best players in the world was still out there and there seemed to be looks of optimism and resignation combined on his face. McIlroy would battle the wind and knock a 6 iron to 5 ft. on 17 to make an unlikely birdie and tie MacIntyre. MacIntyre then headed for the driving range to hopefully get ready for a playoff as the wind on 18 was blowing harder than ever. McIlroy arrived at the 18th tee knowing that he needed to get this tee ball in the fairway as far as possible. His length would be compromised to the howling wind-he backed off hitting the tee shot three times realizing that he had only hit 3 fairways all day and needed this one desperately. The wind didn’t die down as he launched the ball-242 yards only–usually a 4 iron for him. He had 202 yards to the hole and also backed off a few times finally changing clubs to what looked like a 3 hybrid club (usually a 5 iron) and nailed the shot to within 5 feet. The putts that have eluded him over the past number of events, including last year’s Open Championship, were a distant memory as he dropped the ball into the cup for the victory.
Disappointment and bittersweet for MacIntyre…he would be deprived of a chance at a PGA Tour victory but he didn’t lose this tournament. The gods of golf decided that McIlroy had suffered enough; however, it might be that McIlroy might have traded this victory for the one that is on deck this coming week. In golf just as in life, you don’t get to make those choices. MacIntyre could only smile as he was beaten by one of the best players in the world who had to birdie the last two difficult holes to pull it off.