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Jake Knapp honors late grandfather's memory, takes four-stroke lead into final round of Mexico Open

4 Min Read



    Written by Adam Stanley @Adam_Stanley

    Jake Knapp’s grandfather, Gordon Bowley, passed away last April at 85 years old. A champion of youth sports, Bowley had a direct and powerful impact on Knapp, who got a tattoo of his grandfather’s initials on his left arm last summer in his honor.

    Their relationship was special. So special in fact that Knapp still texts him after every round.

    After an 8-under 63 at the Mexico Open at Vidanta Saturday, Knapp will take a four-shot lead into Sunday’s finale. He’ll send a note to his grandfather tonight though – after sticking to his normal routine of dinner, gym and a decent bedtime – and tomorrow try to go win his first PGA TOUR title.

    “I miss him, miss talking to him, wish he could see it,” Knapp said through tears. “It was always like, my dream and his dream as well for me to get out here. … He’s super special to me and my entire family. I know he’s with me out there and he’s watching.”

    Knapp’s 8-under effort was tied for the low round of the day with Ben Silverman. He’s up four over Sami Valimaki, while Silverman, Henrik Norlander and Chan Kim are tied for third at 12-under and seven shots back of Knapp.

    Jake Knapp’s Round 3 highlights From Mexico Open

    “He's been peaking for a while now, last couple years,” Silverman said of Knapp. “He hits the ball a mile and he's got control of his irons, so his game's looking good.”

    Fifty-four-hole leaders on the PGA TOUR are 5-for-7 in converting their wins this season, while Knapp’s four-shot advantage is the biggest such 54-hole lead of anyone so far in 2024 (Nick Dunlap at a three-shot cushion at The American Express).

    Knapp said after Friday’s round he felt like the ball was starting on the correct line on the putting green, so he wanted to just “see a few go in” before the third round. Whatever that little mental trick was, it seemed to work. Knapp was first in Strokes Gained: Putting on Saturday, a leap from 81st in the same stat the day prior. He needed just 25 putts in the third round and got off to a blistering start, shooting a 7-under 28 – the lowest nine-hole score in tournament history.

    Knapp’s 19-under 194 total through three rounds tied the 54-hole scoring record at Vidanta.

    “I can’t complain obviously. Feel like I struck the ball about the same as the last couple days. Just hitting it really well, driving it well,” Knapp said. “Was able to roll in some more putts. Felt like once I was able to see a couple go in early, it just felt like kind of everything was going in for a little while there.”

    Jake Knapp interview after Round 3 at Mexico Open

    Although Knapp is a multi-time winner on PGA TOUR Canada, he never held a post-round lead in any of his Korn Ferry Tour starts, and Saturday marks the first time in his PGA TOUR career he’s held a day-ending lead by himself. Knapp was in the mix at the Farmers Insurance Open and ended up tied for third last month.

    “All that stuff definitely plays its own part,” Knapp said. “I feel like I know how to handle myself and handle the situation and everything else. … Obviously being in the thick of it at the Farmers Insurance (Open) helped as well. So yeah, it's just go out there and execute golf shots and there's not too much else to it.”

    Through three days in Mexico, social media has become quickly enthralled with Knapp’s smooth action, and how he manages to produce seemingly effortless power. Knapp said that’s a product of still working with his childhood coach who “never wanted to change anything.”

    It’s also quick to see how important fitness has been to Knapp’s on-course effort. He’s enough of a gym-goer that in between stints on PGA TOUR Canada and attempting a return back up golf’s ladder he worked as a bouncer at a restaurant-turned-nightclub called – appropriately – The Country Club. Those late hours allowed Knapp to still put in some golf course work when he was trying to put his game back together to compete at the highest of levels. And it let him realize how special his career path has been to this point.

    “I think standing there at 1:00 in the morning every Friday and Saturday night, you kind of realize how good you have it when you get to travel and play golf for a living,” Knapp said. “And then also like a bit of grittiness, the fact that I don't want to necessarily want to have to go back to that.

    “I think it was a lot of different things, but I think it just kind of gave me some thicker skin and allowed me to get to where I am now.”

    The support of his grandfather, too, has helped him. The tattoo is in a prominent place on his arm, so he sees it when he swings, and it’s visible in most photos too. The overnight shift work and the familial support combined with the silky swing and the positive self-talk were all factors in helping Knapp get to this point.

    And this point is on the cusp of winning a PGA TOUR event for the first time.

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