By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AVONDALE, La. -- For the last six or seven years, Russell Knox has been among the many fans in the gallery at THE PLAYERS Championship.
Now the PGA TOUR rookie has an outside shot at making the field for next month's 38th renewal. Knox needs a win, though, and he's put himself in position this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Through two rounds at TPC Louisiana, Knox was 11 under and two strokes off the lead. He made his first trip to the media center on Friday. The Golf Channel booth, too -- and he tweeted a photo later when he came back to earth.
"It's already been a success," Knox said as he contemplated the week. "I just wanted to get into that rhythm of playing better and I played great yesterday and played obviously great (in the second round). ...
"Of course, I'd like to win but we're a million miles away from that. There's two more good round, under par rounds would be great and I mean my goal at the start of the week was Top 25. Now -- it's still that, really."
Still, there's the lure of THE PLAYERS. Knox came to the United States to play golf at Jacksonville University. It was the first place the Scotsman -- who was born in historic Inverness but holds dual citizenship since his dad Mike is from California – visited.
"(I) liked the coach, and actually I worked with my swing coach and thought he was an interesting, cool guy and Jacksonville just seemed like a nice place," Knox said. "I mean it was warm, the sun shines more than three days a year. It was an obvious choice."
Knox spent the 2011 season on the Nationwide Tour where he won once and finished 12th on the money list to earn his PGA TOUR card. He's only made two cuts in eight starts but a recent putting lesson with Dr. Craig Farnsworth -- just his second ever -- appears to have paid dividends. The week of the RBC Heritage Knox played in the Nationwide Tour's TPC Stonebrae Championship and tied for seventh.
"This is it, my rookie year," Knox said with a smile. "It's different. I mean there's a lot going on. I've never had to sit and do this before so that's nice and … I haven't played well this year so far but it's been the best year of my life."
Knox settled in Jacksonville Beach and he practices at TPC Sawgrass, which hosts THE PLAYERS. He says his lowest round from the tips there is probably a 67 although like most pros who live in the area, Knox is more apt to be seen on the range.
"Every time I'm out there playing I'm like, 'How cool is this, man?'” Knox said. “I played this course a million times on the computer. I still have that feeling.”
Knox has also gotten to play a few practice rounds with Jim Furyk, who plays a game not unlike the Scotsman does. "It's nice to always play with a guy that good to kind of pick his brain, and then we hit the ball similar distances," Knox said. "So it's nice to see someone who has done so well that maybe doesn't hit it 330."
Knox knows he faces an uphill battle to make THE PLAYERS field this year. His success on TPC Louisiana, another Pete Dye course like the Stadium, may not be coincidental, though.
"It really hasn't even entered my mind before this week because I was so far away but obviously that's a goal to eventually, maybe if not this year, eventually get to play in THE PLAYERS," Knox said. "And I love that course. I always thought I could do well there and my game suits that course very good which I think is why I'm playing good this week, the same designer. I love the holes."
In the past, Knox would have gone to THE PLAYERS to watch someone like Tiger Woods hit a few shots. Now that he’s a member of the PGA TOUR, though, his outlook has changed. He’s no longer mesmerized by the players he grew up following.
“Now it's my job to beat them,” Knox said. “It's lost out like the wow factor, these guys are amazing because now, hopefully, I'm that guy.”