Knox seeks bright side after comeback from five-putt
March 12, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Russell Knox uses impressive tee shot to set up eagle at THE PLAYERS
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Russell Knox was despondent as he walked to the 12th tee after a heartbreaking start to his hometown event.
He’d played his first 11 holes of THE PLAYERS Championship in 5 over par. It started with a five-putt on his first hole that left him feeling “sucker-punched.” Then he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on his next hole and bogeyed two par-5s.
Knox had seen positive signs this season. He made nine consecutive cuts at one point and in December started working with World Long Drive champion Justin James to add length to his accurate tee shots.
He’d missed the cut in his four starts preceding THE PLAYERS, though, and Thursday’s shocking start only added to his frustration. He knows one swing can change the course of a round, a season and even a career. And that’s what Knox hopes happened on the 12th hole.
“The swing on 12 was hopefully season-changing,” said Knox, who ranks 90th in the FedExCup. “I hit the most beautiful, high, drawing driver to 12 feet. Hopefully I’m going to look back on that swing as a huge momentum shift going forward.”
He eagled that short par-4, then added birdies on 16 and 17 to shoot 73. He’ll start Friday outside the cut line, but he gave himself a chance.
“You never know when something is going to happen,” Knox said. “I’ve missed four cuts in a row and now I’m 5 over in my home tournament. Horrible. I had no choice. I’m not going to quit. You just have to go for it. I’m proud of the way I finished.”
Knox is from Scotland but he played college golf at nearby Jacksonville University and has lived in the area ever since. TPC Sawgrass, which rewards accuracy and doesn’t require length, seems like a perfect fit for the two-time TOUR winner, but it’s broken his heart before.
Four years ago, Knox was in contention when he arrived at the 17th hole on Saturday. He thought he struck his first tee shot well, but it came up just short of the island green. He shanked his next one, then hit a third ball in the water. He signed for a sextuple-bogey 9. He was 11 under par on the other 71 holes that week, finishing T19 with scores of 68-67-80-68.
Knox attributed Thursday’s start to first-hole nerves. He hit his approach shot to 34 feet, but raced his first putt 5 feet past the hole. He needed four more putts to get his ball in the hole.
He struck his par putt too hard, leaving himself a 2 1/2-foot putt for bogey.
“That was the one I wish I could have back,” he said. “I didn’t overly rush it, but I probably should have marked it. It came off sideways. It wasn’t like it was an unlucky putt. I hit it too hard.”
He missed a 4-foot putt for double before holing a 2-foot putt for triple. He bogeyed the ninth hole after driving into the water, then flew the green on 11 with his 95-yard approach and couldn’t get up-and-down from the back bunker. He made birdie on 16 after hitting his second shot just short of the green, though, and then hit his tee shot on 17 to 5 feet.
“Hopefully I shoot 8 under tomorrow. My game is there and it’s frustrating as hell,” Knox said. “That’s golf. It just kicks you when you’re down but it will pay you back. Golf will always pay you back as long as you keep doing the right things.”