Robert MacIntyre hopes good memories from his last visit to Hillside Golf Club can fuel his challenge at the Cazoo Classic.
The Scot finished tied second on the DP World Tour’s last visit to the Southport venue for the 2019 Betfred British Masters hosted by Tommy Fleetwood in the first of back-to-back runner up finishes during a brilliant debut season that saw him crowned the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.
MacIntyre went on to seal a maiden title at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown in November 2020, and he arrives back at Hillside for his fifth Tour event in a row buoyed by extending his made-cuts streak to ten at The 150th Open last week.
Meanwhile Eddie Pepperell believes his game is moving in the right direction as the two-time DP World Tour winner aims to get back into contention this week.
The Englishman enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2018 when he won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and Sky Sports British Masters, and despite a dip in form in recent seasons Pepperell is in a good place as he returns to a course that suits his game.
Pepperell finished tied second alongside MacIntyre and Matt Wallace on the DP World Tour’s last visit to Hillside and the 31-year-old is relishing the chance to get back into action around the links layout after a two week break.
It was Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult who produced a birdie-birdie finish to move one shot clear of Pepperell, MacIntyre and Wallace after a dramatic final day in Southport three years ago, and while the 25-year-old is expecting a different challenge this week, he is already feeling “good vibes”.
The Cazoo Classic is the third event of six-week UK swing, with the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews to follow next.
Robert MacIntyre: “Knowing that I finished well here in 2019 is the reason that I came back.
“It’s a links course, it is the way I have been brought up in Scotland playing links golf and they are fond memories. It is now about going out and trying to draw on those fond memories and hopefully go a little better than last time.
“The crowd was unbelievable last week. It is a memory that I will never forget. The Majors are the biggest tournaments in our life.
“If you don’t play in them, you feel as if you have not had the career that you wanted. I have luckily managed to play in them over the last two to three years, played in pretty much all of them. It is the reason that we play golf, to compete at the top level against the best and to put our names on trophies that the greatest golfers have won.
“We get to play in regular Tour events, and they are just as important. It is all about trying to win golf tournaments and lifting trophies.”
Eddie Pepperell: “It is the start of a nice run in the UK and then a busy end to the year. Historically this week and next week would be two courses I would feel very comfortable on.
“But there has been a lot going on with my game, so I am waiting for the big mistake not to arrive. That might sound a little defensive but sometimes that can be all you need.
“I think I am doing a lot of good things in my game so I don’t feel too far away from putting a good couple of rounds together, kicking on and then hopefully getting in contention which would be the big next step.
“It is around the corner but there is going to be an element of letting it happen and also making it happen. I think I have done enough to make it happen, I just now need to go and play and let the scores come to me. I am pretty close.”
“Being a links course, which historically I have done quite well on, adds to that reason for belief.
“Getting the ball on the deck is usually the play on links, especially if there is some wind around which I think there might be a bit of.
“Keeping the ball in play and away from bunkers is also important and if so, you should do OK. With the new mounds that they have built, it does frame the holes nicely as well.”
Marcus Kinhult: “It’s great to be back. Just seeing the 18th hole has brought back some great memories from 2019. It’s a special place.
“It was my first win and only win so far. It’s a great memory. Battling down the stretch on Sunday was nice. I had been in contention a couple of times before but that time I managed it better and got the job done.
“A lot has happened since the last time I was here in 2019 for me personally but also around the world [with the Covid-19 pandemic]. I am still trying my best and I feel overall I am trending in the right direction.
“It is not a straight line. It goes up and down like for everyone, but I am feeling a lot better than I did last year so hopefully I can maintain that progress and build this week and for the rest of the season. Hopefully that will pay off in the long run.”