By Andrew Both
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Reuters) – A wise word of advice from old friend Tommy Fleetwood helped an agitated Marcus Armitage calm down and shoot a tidy even-par 71 in the opening round at the U.S. Open on Thursday.
As if Armitage was not nervous enough prepping for his long-awaited Open debut, the situation was hardly helped when fog caused tee times to be delayed by 90 minutes at Torrey Pines.
It was while waiting for the early morning gloom to dissipate that Armitage bumped into fellow Englishman Fleetwood on the practice green.
“He said ‘how are you feeling’ and I said ‘well I feel just a little bit agitated’ and he said ‘it won’t be your last U.S. Open so just go and enjoy it’,” Armitage told Reuters after finishing only four shots behind clubhouse leader Russell Henley.
“It really helped me. He’s always been good to me Tommy. I felt it was a bit of priceless information at that time and I thank him for it.”
Fleetwood, though three years younger than Armitage, is vastly more experienced on the global stage, with five European Tour wins and runner-up finishes at both a U.S. Open (2018) and a British Open (2019).
Armitage started with three pars and a birdie at his fourth, the par-four 13th, setting the stage for a round that included only two bogeys, no mean feat at a championship widely known as golf’s toughest test.
“Once I made the birdie on 13, it settled me all down and I got into playing golf and the process of each shot,” said the 33-year-old from Huddersfield.
“All in all it’s been a great day.”
The cherubic Armitage looks younger than his age, regularly flashing a genuine smile and speaking with the slightly-deprecating air of someone who has battled for years to make it to the big stage and appreciates what he has finally achieved.
After more than a decade of professional toil he broke through and won the European Open in Germany two weeks ago to punch his ticket to Torrey Pines.
“I just really want to play well,” he said. “Just go out tomorrow and enjoy it, same process and see what happens.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond)