RUSSELL KNOX burst into the limelight last November with a stunning victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Knox became the first Scot to win a WGC title and promptly declared his intention to qualify for Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team for 2016 by joining the European Tour. Sadly for Knox his win in China did not earn Ryder Cup points as he was not a member of the Tour at the time, but his performances so far this year have put him in with a chance of making the team. He was denied victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open by a truly magnificent finish when Rory McIlroy eagled the final hole to win. Knox soon had to settle for second place again, on the US PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage. He was in the points at last year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, finishing in the top ten at Gullane GC. Here he describes his rise to fame.
FINALLY, I’ve arrived back in my home town of Inverness, competing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. Although I get to play in all the Majors for the first time this year, for me, this ranks alonside themn. With the Championship being held at Castle Stuart it would be a dream come true to win. But just to play in the Championship is going to be amazing. Getting to lift the trophy would be fantastic.
If I were to win this week I would regard it as the biggest victory of my career. Of course, winning the World Golf Championships event in China was massive but every golfer in the world wants to win their home Open.
Russell Knox with the trophy after winning the WGC – HSBC Champions at the Sheshan International Golf Club on November 8, 2015 in Shanghai, China.
It’s great to be here, even though none of my family live in Inverness any more. Fortunately, one of my best friend’s parents live very near to the Castle Stuart course, so I’ll be staying with them during the week. I haven’t had too many ticket requests yet, but I’m sure I will and I hope I’ll have a lot of friends coming along. I’ve got so many fond memories of Inverness. I wish Castle Stuart had been here when I was growing up. I’ve played it a couple of times in recent years, and it’s a spectacular course. But playing at Nairn Dunbar and later, Inverness, I had a great childhood.
I’ve become the player I have because I grew up playing on a links golf course. It teaches you the importance of being able to hit every shot. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. I loved to play up there in the junior events. My parents used to drop me off at the course with my friends, and we’d play 36 holes, and sometimes 54 holes a day.
There’s so much daylight here in the summer. We just kept playing until it got dark. Sometimes we’d go out with three clubs and have mini competitions between us. I look back on those days growing up as great times. I miss them, because back then you were playing golf purely for the love of the game Today, we play so much competitive golf, I miss playing just for fun. Of course, it’s still fun competing, but when you’ve been away for a long stretch at tournaments, you don’t really feel like you want to play much golf.
When I was playing on the web.com Tour in 2013, I had the opportunity of competing in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. It was probably the hardest decision of my career, I wanted to play here so badly. At the time I thought maybe I’d made the wrong decision by not playing but it looks like it’s turned out OK in the end.
I appreciate there will be a lot of expectation on me this week but I’m looking forward to it. When I played with Rory McIlroy on the last day of the Irish Open he was obviously the crowd favourite, and that whetted my appetite for the Scottish Open where I’ll hopefully have the same sort of support. I loved the atmosphere of playing in the last group with Danny Willett and Rory.
Golf is a pressure sport. Whoever copes best with the pressure is normally the guy who wins. It’s not always a comfortable feeling, but it’s not meant to be, because professional golf is hard. I know I’ll be under pressure this week but contending to win tournaments and coping with the pressure is why you play the game. I play better on the bigger stage. I loved the atmosphere in Ireland, for example.
The Irish crowd were obviously pulling for Rory, but they were also very respectful of me. They weren’t rooting against me, which was nice. If I can get the same level of support at Castle Stuart this week that Rory had at the K Club, then I’ll love that. I expect the Scottish crowd will be rooting for all the home players, but I hope they’ll be cheering for me just that bit harder, seeing that I’m an Inverness boy! I had lots of friends and family supporting me at the Players Championship at Sawgrass recently, because I live near the course in Ponte Vedra, and I’d be so pleased if that is the case this week.
When I stand on the first tee on Thursday I’m aiming to be as fresh and energised as I can be. At the big events I’ve probably over-prepared and put too much emphasis on my practice rounds. When I won in China I’d only played the course once in practice. So maybe my magic formula is – less is more. I’ll soon find out and I know the Scottish Open is going to be right up there in terms of atmosphere.