Matt Fitzpatrick, Danny Willett, Jonathan Thomson, Marcus Armitage, Ben Hutchinson, Sam Bairstow, Nick Poppleton representing Yorkshire at The Open

When Marcus Armitage steps to the tee as the final member of the opening threeball of the 149th Open Championship at 6.35am today, he will do so as the first representative of a small army of Yorkshire golfers to have descended on the Kent coast.

Sam Bairstow on the first hole at St George's this week (Picture: Getty Images)
Sam Bairstow on the first hole at St George's this week (Picture: Getty Images)

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.

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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.

Howley Hall's Ben Hutchinson playing a practice round (Picture: Getty Images)

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.

Matthew Fitzpatrick of England and his caddie Billy Foster look on during a practice round ahead of The 149th Open at Royal St George's . (Picture: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

“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.

Marcus Armitage (Picture: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)

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.

England's Jonathan Thomson plays his approach shot from the 9th fairway during a practice round for The 149th Open Golf Championship at Royal St George's (Picture: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“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.

Wath's Nick Poppleton watches his drive from the 7th tee during a practice round for The 149th Open Golf Championship at Royal St George's (Picture: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
England's Danny Willett plays from a bunker on the 6th hole during the practice day at The Royal St George's Golf Club (Picture: PA)