By Matt Smith
Robert MacIntyre made a big statement for inclusion in Europe’s Ryder Cup team by claiming the Italian Open on the same Marco Simone course where Luke Donald’s men will take on the US next September.
The Scotsman defeated US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick in a play-off to capture his second DP World Tour title.
MacIntyre started the final day three strokes off the pace, but raced into contention as he cleared the front nine of next year’s Ryder Cup host venue in six-under par. The 26-year-old carded four birdies and three bogeys on the back nine, signing for a seven-under 64 as he set the clubhouse target at 14-under.
A nervous wait followed as Fitzpatrick was also 14-under with two to play but dropped a shot on the par three 17th. Frenchman Victor Perez then missed the opportunity to draw level with MacIntyre on 14-under as a short-range birdie putt on the 18th slipped past the hole, settling for third place in Rome.
Fitzpatrick, who was bidding for his ninth DP World Tour title, recovered with a birdie on the 18th to force extra holes, signing for a four-under par 67.
After finding trouble with his drive and then subsequent recovery shot, Fitzpatrick made a par on the first sudden death hole. MacIntyre, on the other hand, was just off the green with his second shot, hit it close with his third and then rolled in a birdie putt from three feet for victory.
The win is MacIntyre’s first in regulation strokeplay, having won his maiden DP World Tour title at the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown – winning the title in a final-day shoot-out format.
DP World Tour Rankings leader Rory McIlroy finished fourth on 12-under, while Lucas Herbert and Aaron Rai shared fifth on 11-under.
“Unbelievable,” said MacIntyre. “I didn’t think it was going to come again. I’ve struggled the last year and just felt like my game wasn’t quite there. I made a lot of changes the last three months and in my iron play today, this week, has been absolutely brilliant and thankfully got over the line at the end.
“I thought if I get through the front nine in somewhat par we can kind of make a move after that. When I got off to such a hot start, was just thinking, keep pushing, one shot at a time and stay aggressive. Obviously I dropped on 14 and 15 was a terrible bogey. I play aggressively, so got no option but for me to play at pins and stay aggressive and thankfully it paid off this week.
“I started doubting myself. The (Cyprus) Showdown was like today, it was just a shoot-out. But a 72-hole golf tournament, standing over the putt in the playoff, I’m shaking like a leaf thinking how am I going to get the ball in the hole. I just trusted everything that I’ve been working on, everything I do, it’s just one of them things and it went my way this week.
“We are well away from The Ryder Cup obviously, and you know what…might as well say it: it’s my number one priority. I was close last time, and I went to try to get my PGA Tour card, didn’t work out, both sides. But this is what I want. This is my only goal for the season is to make that Ryder Cup Team. I think I’ve made a good start.”
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