Not all last-minute invites are created equal, in fact, sometimes they are preferable. Just ask Andrew "Beef" Johnston, who earned one of the more coveted last-minute invites in all of professional golf on Sunday.
Johnston, who began the day 10 shots off the lead of Bernd Wiesberger, carded a final-round 62 at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland. Through 15 holes the Englishman was at nine under, yielding a 59Watch hashtag on the Golf Channel broadcast. After he made birdie at the 16th, he put himself in position to pull off the improbable feat, needing back-to-back birdies to finish. He went par-bogey, settling for a nine-under 62 to vault 34 spots up the leader board and into solo third at the time.
Eventually, Beef finished in a tie for fourth, still good enough to earn one of the three remaining spots in the Open Championship next week at Royal Portrush. It will be his first Open Championship appearance since 2017, and his first major championship appearance since the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock.
Making the round and subsequent Open invite all the more special was the fact it came just a few weeks after Johnston revealed he had been struggling with his mental health in a player blog on the European Tour's website. Johnston wrote about one low point in particular after the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge this past November.
“I came off the course on Sunday and couldn't even bring myself to go get my clubs from the locker," he said. "I just left them. I went straight back to the hotel and cried."
Johnston quickly became a fan favorite when he burst onto the scene in 2016, picking up his first European Tour win at the Spanish Open and saying he couldn't wait to get "hammered" afterward. This made him very popular with American fans in particular, who showered him with chants of "Beeeeeef" everywhere he went. This, in addition to the added pressure he put on himself to perform, weighed heavily on him.
"You've got to remember, I'm a normal geezer from Finchley," Beef wrote in the blog. "Next thing, I see a poll over in America asking fans, 'who are you looking forward to seeing more?' I finished above Tiger Woods. To get your head around that is very tough, and then came the pressure I put on myself to perform.
"The attention I got was just crazy. I want to take a picture with a kid, sign a ball and make their day, but it all happened so quickly."
The good news is that Johnston appears to be in a much healthier mental state, which he credited to the help of psychologists and his fiancée Jodie Valencia. The couple announced they'll be having a baby on Instagram in early June. Following his 62 at The Renaissance Club on Sunday, Johnston fought back tears talking about Valencia, only able to muster up a "Life's good," when speaking to Golf Channel's Damon Hack. When Hack asked why he's chosen to be so public about his mental health struggles, Johnston was as honest as he could be.
"It's the truth, isn't it? Why not? You can't go wrong with saying the truth."
Johnston also conducted an emotional interview with the European Tour. You can watch the full thing below, and you might need the tissues:
There is no cheering in the press box, but it goes without saying that everyone in the golf world is thrilled to see Beef back and smiling again. Hopefully there will be more smiling to come at Royal Portrush, where he'll be joined by France's Benjamin Hébert and Italy's Nino Bertasio, who earned the other two exemptions that were up for grabs at the Scottish Open.