CROMWELL, Conn. — Whether or not Russell Knox makes Darren Clarke’s European Ryder Cup team, he’s given the captain a lot to think about over the next few weeks before the team is finalized on August 29th.
Before this year, Knox had come agonizingly close to securing his first PGA TOUR win on a number of occasions in the last few years, losing in a playoff at the 2014 Honda Classic.
The floodgates finally opened last November at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions event. Knox, who was seventh reserve in the field, shot 68 on the last day to grab his maiden TOUR title in his first World Golf Championship event.
Since then, he’s made a habit out of getting into contention — and making it to the winner’s circle. Sunday’s win at the Travelers Championship was his second TOUR title of the season and marked the fourth time he’s finished second or better this year.
“I think it was big for me,” Knox said of his first win at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. “I made it a big deal. I finished second three times since I’ve won, and I mean, I really wanted to get another one so I could really show myself that I can win multiple times. And to do it in one season is pretty amazing.”
Playing the role of pursuer at the beginning of the final round, Knox stayed patient on the front nine, making birdies on the third and fifth holes to go out in 1-under and get within one shot of 54-hole leader Daniel Berger.
When Berger started to struggle as he made the turn to the back nine, Knox made his move with back-to-back 6-foot birdies on the 12th and 13th to go three clear of the field.
A bogey on the par-3 16th — Knox called the tee shot a “pathetic swing” — turned the last two holes into a tight finish for the Scot, and sent runner-up Jerry Kelly back to the range to stay warm.
But there would be no playoff. Despite missing the fairway and finding a greenside bunker with his approach, Knox didn’t waver with the tournament on the line. With 12 feet separating him from his second TOUR win and a potential playoff, Knox waved his caddie off and trusted his own line for the deciding putt.
“Right before I asked him what he was going to — what he thought, how much break, I told him, I got it,” Knox said, “because I didn’t want to hear what he had to say in case it was slightly different from what I was thinking. I just trusted my read, and it was just a nice gentle, right-to-left putt.
“I played it just a little higher to the right, and about halfway I had a good feeling it was right in the middle.”
Knox was right. The ball disappeared into the long afternoon shadows and the cup, leading to one of the most memorable TOUR celebrations this season that saw Knox rip off his hat and throw it clear across the green in jubilation.
The celebration was reminiscent of another hat throw by Fred Funk at the 2005 PLAYERS Championship. Funk just happens to be one of Knox’s idols and a former resident in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where Knox currently resides.
“Fred Funk is my idol,” Knox said. “Of course when he won THE PLAYERS he had the famous hat throw, and then Tiger has obviously done it at Bay Hill once or twice. I think Aaron Baddeley might have chucked it a few weeks ago when he won.
“I mean, it’s one of those things, you’re never thinking, okay, if this goes in I’m going to throw my hat. But I felt like the Incredible Hulk when it went in. I could have ripped my shirt off.”
Thankfully, Knox didn’t do the latter. He did, however, prove to Darren Clarke and the rest of the PGA TOUR that he’s a force to be reckoned with going forward.
“I thought about it on the last tee to be honest,” Knox, who shot 68 and finished at 14 under, said of his Ryder Cup chances. “I knew by winning this tournament, it’s put Darren Clarke in a very difficult position not to pick me. I think — but I mean, it’s his decision. If I don’t make the team, I can’t think I’m worthy of a pick. It’s his decision.
“… But like I said, I hope I’m on the team. I would love to be there. It would be a huge honor. Maybe — holing nice putts like that obviously helps.”