Armitage has grounds for Open optimism

HOWLEY Hall's Marcus Armitage will be on familiar territory when he tees it up today in his first Open Championship '“ but on unfamiliar ground.

Golfer Marcus Armitage, pictured at Bradley Park Golf Club, Huddersfield.  Picture by Simon Hulme
Golfer Marcus Armitage, pictured at Bradley Park Golf Club, Huddersfield. Picture by Simon Hulme

The Challenge Tour player tackled Carnoustie during last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

But he headed north certain that he would find a different track from the one on which he played last autumn.

“It will be a totally different golf course because of the weather and because it is the Open Championship set-up,” said Armitage, who carded rounds of 65 69 at St Annes Old Links in Final Qualifying.

He had no plans to do any star-gazing when he put his name down for practice rounds. The practice at the Open is the same as the one that operates at most golf clubs – a sheet goes up and you pick a time, and partners, to suit you.

Many first-timers at the oldest of golf’s four majors – if they are bold enough – see if they can slot in alongside the world’s best players, or perhaps a particular favourite.

“I’m just going to be chilled about it because this is not going to be the last Open I play in,” said Armitage, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday.

“It is not an arrogance me saying this, it is just a calmness,” he explained. It is also the product of self-belief that comes from having won on both the Challenge and EuroPro Tours.

Although he was unable to retain his playing card during his first full season on the European Tour last year, he believes it was part of a learning curve and hopes to finish inside the top 15 on the Challenge Tour in 2018 to reclaim his playing privileges at the top level.

He added: “I would love to be established on the European Tour, that is my next step – getting back on there and then getting into the top 100, then the top 80 and then the top 60, top 40 and just move up in levels. There is no time limit, progression is key.”

His swing coach Anthony Sheehy has, Armitage says, played a massive part in his progression to date and expects his influence to help lift him even higher.

“I got to the Challenge Tour [after two wins in the 2015 season on the EuroPro Tour] and graduated straight away from there to the European Tour and it has been quite a rapid rise,” he said.

“It was a massive learning experience for me. There are players who take to it faster than others and it took me quite a time to understand it, and believe, that it [the European Tour] is where I belong and where I can actually compete with these guys.

“I think I know that now and the Open is another level for me to go and compete at and see where I am at. I think going to the Open will make me feel a lot more comfortable because there will be a lot of people I know there because I met them last year on the Tour.

“So going on the range and seeing Rory [McIlroy] or seeing Tiger [Woods] is not going to affect me the way it would have done if I had just qualified for the Open and not played on the Tour.”