Marcus Armitage is 33 and has only played in one major, he’s ranked 181st in the world and is yet to win on the European Tour. His best season, where he squeezed into the top 60 and a place in the World Tour Championship in Dubai, took place during a worldwide pandemic which meant that his efforts would go partly unrewarded in terms of a better category, and therefore better starts, for this season.
But, like Bob MacIntyre, he’s fast becoming one of the most popular players in the game. You can’t buy or teach the skill of being yourself and Armitage is just that, all the time. While others will somehow shoehorn their latest watch deal into an interview by scratching their head repeatedly, Armitage will just tell it like it is. When things go wrong he’ll occasionally turn to social media and simply give a very normal assessment of what’s gone on.
Hence why the European Tour keep turning to him for their viral videos. This week they have lit up social media with Armitage’s attempt to try and break the world record for the longest shot to land in a moving car. If you haven’t already then find seven minutes in your day and enjoy Armitage in all his glory.
Another recent foray into the Twittersphere had Armitage, in literally all his glory, doing some putting practice before his naked torso and backside appear. In an age of muscular athletes attempting to take over the game and reduce courses to a version of bomb-and-gouge golf this will appeal to the rest of us whose minds and bodies repeatedly let us down.
A few weeks ago I got to witness Armitage’s skills at first hand in a game at Moortown. A mutual friend, Underpin Sport’s Duncan McCarthy, is his mental performance coach and their getting back together has coincided with Armitage now playing his best golf. His 2019 season was a mix of missed cuts on the Challenge Tour and getting into debt – his on-course earnings were less than €15k – but that is all now very much in the past as he closes in on his first European Tour win.
The general perception, much of which is correct, is that Armitage is a bit of a joker. His opening gambit was to hand over a dozen Pink Lady balls to Duncan before giving the rest of us a dozen Pro V1s each.
‘And when you’ve lost them, you can have a go with these..’ as he produced another box of Titleists for Duncan.
But he’s also incredibly talented and there is an awful lot that goes in to the whole process. Having arrived half an hour early he had already hit balls on the range and done a proper warm-up. Whereas we will all waft a few irons down there he had done it properly to give himself the best chance of a good round. It might well have been just a relaxed fourball but there was professional pride and a desire to go as low as possible.
He averages around 307 yards off the tee which will equate to being around 50-60 yards ahead of a good hit by a lot of us and, while it might not have been his perfect driving day, he was never more than three or four yards off just two missed fairways. At the 2nd hole, which is generally a drive and a wood of some description and anything within 20 yards of the green is a bonus, Armitage struck the most perfect mid iron from the first cut of rough to 10 feet. It never left the pin and was the most idyllic judge of distance and, in that split second in my mind at least, he had put himself into a category of not just a pro but a very strong tour pro. There was so much that might have gone wrong with that shot but he would walk off with a birdie.
It’s easy to trot out that he’s a natural and that he makes the game look so easy but that’s the most noticeable thing about his game. He knows his swing inside out and what works for him and what doesn’t. Ask some pros to expand on how their swing is made up and they will quickly run out of things to say, Armitage could keep going at length.
Every iron finished pretty much pin high and, while we were still in March so the greens were a little bumpy, it was the comfiest four-under 67 you could ever imagine. He would miss just one green, by a fraction, and so I couldn’t really comment on his short game though, from the TV, this might be where he almost excels the most.
I videoed every shot that he played, he’s that type of player where things very quickly happen and it makes you want to watch him. It was only a bit of fun but he took the course on with his driver – at the 4th, a par 4 of 340 yards which doglegs slightly, he stuffed a driver to six feet which somehow lipped out.
One of the more interesting tests came at the halfway house when three of us ordered a lot of meat and one of us stuck to his prepared snacks and protein drinks. He was trying to lose a bit of timber and he was sticking to his guns whereas the rest of us all failed at the first sniff of some bacon.
There is quite a bit of chat about some upcoming filming with the European Tour, something about landing a ball in a car, and his mind is already whirring with ball, club and shaft combinations to hitting a high fade. Come the close of the exhibition he and Duncan would stay and chat for another two hours on the strategy and planning for the coming weeks and rest of the season.
“He’s growing into being himself and is starting to trust himself and he’s in a better place to receive information. He just wants to learn, I know him well enough to know that he doesn’t need answers to certain questions so we don’t get carried away with some things and we’ll try to keep things simple and on point,” explains McCarthy.
“You can see where his mindset is at, when he’s on a putting green he’s there to learn about the green whereas others are looking at results and to see the ball going in. It’s a subconscious thing of doing it from close thing to see the ball going in regularly which is a short-term fix and a bit of a boost whereas Marcus will look at the bigger picture, he’s getting those little things. It sounds bizarre but he’s moving slower and he’s finally digested to give up trying to win and let it come to him and trust what he’s doing daily. His new caddy, Harry, is an absolute class act, he’s on the same wavelength as Marcus in terms of performance and knows what we’re there to do.”