For no fewer than seven men from the White Rose will tee off at Royal St George’s today as the first Open for 24 months gets under way following last year’s postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gone are the days when Yorkshire was lucky to have two men in the field, as the county was used to back towards the end of the first decade of the new millennium, when Malton’s Simon Dyson and Hull’s Richard Finch were the sole players flying the White Rose flag.
Armitage is the first out of the gate for his second appearance at an Open, earned by virtue of his maiden victory on the European Tour at the Porsche European Open back in June.
That also got him into the US Open at Torrey Pines where he missed the cut by an agonising single stroke.
Five matches later comes Danny Willett the most recognisable of the Yorkshire contingent thanks to his stunning Masters triumph of five years ago.
A match for anyone on his day, as he proved at Augusta that weekend, Willett has struggled for form and fitness ever since and is only playing his third tournament back since a bout of Covid earlier in the year and then appendix surgery which forced him to miss last month’s US Open.
Willett’s fellow Rotherham Golf Club graduate Jonathan Thomson is next out at 8.47am, the one-time European Tour member who battled leukemia in his youth tees off with a famous old player in his corner.
“Jonathan Thomson is one guy I’ll be rooting for when @theopen tees off this week,” tweeted former Masters champion and world No 1 Fred Couples.
“What an inspiring and incredible story! If you can beat leukemia you can win the Open!”
If any Yorkshireman is pitching up thinking of winning the Claret Jug it is Matt Fitzpatrick. His strong form took the Sheffield-born player to within a shot of winning the Scottish Open last week.
Fitzpatrick, who was low amateur at Muirfield in 2013, finished 20th at Portrush two years ago.
While Willett and Fitzpatrick are familiar names for a majjor championship field, the final three players who will have a healthy following from back home are venturing onto this hallowed turf for the first time.
They are also familiar with each other having grown up on the county and national amateur scene.
Sam Bairstow of Hallowes Golf Club is still an amateur and first of this trio out at 1.37pm today.
“It’s going to be amazing to be in The Open at Royal St George’s,” said Bairstow, the former North of England Amateur champion.
“I just want to enjoy the experience and whatever happens, happens.”
Howley Hall’s Ben Hutchinson, who worked in Morrisons and Next to help pay his way as an amateur and on the satellite pro tours, is next out at 3.43pm followed by his good friend Nick Poppleton of Wath, the last man of the 156-field to tee off at 4.16pm. As professionals, Hutchinson, Poppleton and Thomson will be be guaranteed at least £3,857 whether they make the cut or not. But the experience is worth a lot more, just ask Willett, who 10 years ago this week, began his first Open campaign in the first group out in the 2011 championship at the very same St George’s course.
And he hasn’t done too badly for himself.