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Marcus Opens some doors

MARCUS Armitage landed a career best 3rd place in the South African Open in early January to earn himself automatic entry into this year’s Open Championship at Royal St George.

Armitage had been in contention over the weekend only to see Branden Grace race clear on Sunday at the Randpark Club in Johannesburg. However the 32-year-old from Howley Hall walked up the 18th knowing that he’d have to sink a 20-foot birdie putt to cement 3rd spot and land The Open invite.

It was also worth the little matter of £70,000 and when it dropped the reaction of Armitage was outdone only by that of his ecstatic bagman – a local caddie picked up for the week, by the name of Eric.

It meant he earned solo 3rd on -16, two shots behind South African Louis Oosthuizen and five behind winner and another ‘home’ golfer Grace on -21.

The result was affirmation – such as it was needed – of Armitage’s ability to compete at the highest levels, despite the travails he’s been through, especially in recent years. He got his Tour card in 2017 after years battling away on Europe’s minor tours, but then faced the grind of the Challenge Tour again, having dislocated his shoulder in an indoor skydiving jaunt, 10 days before he was due to play in the 2018 Open. He teed it up, playing with half a swing, but missed the cut despite hitting a 69 on the Friday.

But it was back to square one for 2019, a lean year which was saved only by coming through Tour Q School to land one of the precious places back in ‘the show’.

The South African Open result also got him into the following week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship but he failed to make the weekend He shot -3 on the Friday but a disastrous first day 77 meant he missed the cut by three strokes..

After the Johannesburg result he dedicated it to his girlfriend Lucy, a beautician in their home town of Shelley, outside Huddersfield.

"It's hard for her," he said. "She’s working, we've got a house and we just don't get the quality time. This one's for Lucy.

"I can tell Lucy that she doesn't have to do any nails that week (Royal St George), she can book it off and we can go and enjoy The Open.”

Going into the last weekend in January, he had €90,700 in winnings from four events and was in 37th place on the tour list.

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