By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- After finishing 143rd on the money list last year, Russell Knox knows he's in a tenuous situation.
Such conditional status on the PGA TOUR offers no guarantees. Planning a schedule is all but a pipe dream, and Monday qualifiers are a way of life. So Knox knows what he has to do.
"Just try to play good when I get the chance," he said simply, and that's exactly what Knox did on Friday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Knox played the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula and fired a 64 on the par-70 layout that left him tied with Hunter Mahan for the lead in relation to par. He made eight birdies and two bogeys on a solid day that saw Knox hit 12 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation. Using just 25 putts didn't hurt, either.
Encouraged by Phil Mickelson's success with a new Callaway driver in Phoenix last week, Knox said he decided to add a new one from Cleveland to his bag this week. He ended up tying his career-low on TOUR.
"It worked," Knox said. "Drove it very well and from the fairway on this course, you can have some shorter clubs in. Hit nice iron shots. Putted great."
Knox, who is based in Jacksonville, Fla., has lived a nomadic existance so far this year. He played in the Sony Open in Hawaii, which was the first full-field event of this year, by virtue of his tie for ninth in the last one of 2012. He missed the cut in Honolulu, though, and then was unsuccessful in Monday qualifiers for the events at Torrey Pines and TPC Scottsdale.
"Played nicely both times but didn't make it," said Knox, who stayed with a family in southern California between events. "So I came in here with a lot of confidence, because I feel like I've been playing very well. Just haven't had the chance to play. It was nice to get off to a good start."
Depending on whether "something good happens" on Sunday, Knox plans to head home to Florida for the first time in five weeks. Then it's off to Web.com Tour events in Panama and Colombia. He expects to return to the PGA TOUR at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com, which is played opposite the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in March.
"It's going to be a mammoth year, so it's kind of nice to take a break to be honest," Knox said. "But I have been itching to go because I feel like my game has improved a lot. I finished last year so well, and so I'm just trying to keep the confidence high and just waiting for my chance to play good."