When you have had a smash hit, what do you do for an encore?

The “Difficult Second Album Syndrome” tends to be an ailment of the music industry as a band, fresh from a chart-topping debut, embarks on a follow up that is championed as the greatest release since Nelson Mandela’s but then watches it flop amid a critical backlash.

In the world of golf, meanwhile, Robert MacIntyre certainly made his mark on the hit parade in 2019 as he won the European Tour’s rookie of the year award.

Such high standards tend to lead to heightened expectations and increased pressures. The canny, grounded MacIntyre is not one to get overly burdened by all the hoopla, though.

As he begins his second season on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi this week, it will be business as usual for the Oban left-hander.

“Last season proved to me that my game is good enough, and that’s all the confidence I need,” said the 23-year-old, whose shimmering year included three second-place finishes and a tie for sixth in his Open Championship debut.

“Yes, you’ll have good spells and bad spells. All golfers do, but if you have the confidence knowing that you’re good enough and continue to enjoy it, I’m sure I’ll be in a good spot at the end of the season.”

The National:

MacIntyre occupies a nice spot on the world rankings. At No.65, he is the highest-ranked Scot on the global order. The top 50, which opens up more doors of opportunity than Hughie Green, is tantalisingly close. If he can continue his upward trajectory and break into that rarefied echelon by April, an invitation to The Masters could be winging its way to Oban.

“I’m targeting the top 50 but The Masters is not in my thoughts,” he said. “The top 50 opens up so many opportunities, The Masters being one of them, but it’s important not to let one event consume your thoughts.

“I’ll set goals week-in, week- out as I did last year and try to win my own little battles. Augusta is a place I’ve never been to but everyone dreams of playing there. There’s so much work to do over the next few months, though.”

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MacIntyre has been getting back to work in Dubai over the past few days having not touched a club for six weeks. A niggling wrist injury he has been nursing since the summer required this prolonged period of rest and recovery. The break, it seems, has done him good. Not that he wanted to stop playing, mind you.

“Because I had been playing so well, I wanted to play the early events of 2020 before Christmas but sense kicked in,” he said. “I needed the rest for my wrist. There’s no point pushing it and doing more harm in the long term.

“This week was the first time I’ve played golf without pain since just after The Open last July. Six weeks is the longest I’ve had off in years. But it was nice. You see people you’ve not seen for ages and they are talking about my 2019 season and it makes you appreciate what you have achieved.”

The National:

The tune-up in Dubai, along with his coach Davy Burns, has brushed off the rust and helped get MacIntyre back in the swing.

“There were times last season when I felt I couldn’t hit certain shots so that’s something I needed to work on,” he said. “If you looked at my swing now and what it was like last season, you probably wouldn’t notice any difference but for my coach, with his watchful eye, there is a lot that has gone on over the last couple of days and we’re in good shape.”

This time last year, MacIntyre was a rookie stepping into the unknown. Here in 2020, he is marching into the new season with considerable purpose.

“I’m certainly more relaxed than I was this time last year,” he said. “The excitement is still there and I’m glad it is because if it wasn’t then I would have to be thinking about doing something else. As long as the fire is burning in the belly then we can give it a good go again.”