“Be lucky”. It’s a throwaway comment caddies sometimes make to their player at the start of a final round. But in Russell Knox’s case the luck was with him from start to finish during the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai and when his opportunity came he grabbed it. Ranked 85th in the world, he got into the tournament as 7th alternate and managed to get his visa from the Chinese Embassy in the nick of time, For him to win his first tournament in the illustrious company of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Ricky Fowler was a surprise to many, but not to Knox himself. He said he had a feeling in his bones that his first win would be a big one. He becomes the first Scot to win a World Golf Championship event.
Knox is from Inverness but is based in Florida. He won his way with some sizzling iron play, devastating wedge shots and a clarity and focus in the steady way he plotted himself round what was previously known as a “bombers” golf course. He withdrew some pressure from Kevin Kissner and joint third placed Danny Willett who shot a brilliant -10, 62 – a round which had 10 birdies and no bogeys. Knox himself had six birdies in his final round 68. He said that all day his thoughts were on his late coach and mentor Mike Flemming to whom he owes everything in golf for he taught him everything he knows.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “Winning any professional tournament is a massive accomplishment and you’re never quite sure if you’re ever going to do it because there are so many incredible players throughout the world, especially at tournaments like this with such an elite field. To come and be on top this week is a dream come true. Winning at any level is the hardest thing you can do, and especially because I’ve never won a big one like this. It was tough but I just kept holing putts, and golf is so much easier when that happens. I was quite calm. But at the same time, that was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done. I still can’t quite believe it.”
Knox went to college in Jacksonville where he is now based. He has so far bypassed the European Tour. He gained his Players Card on the PGA Tour after climbing the ranks of the Hooters and Nationwide Tours. He lost a play off at the Honda Classic in 2014.
He is the complete opposite of Victor Dubisson, who tried to play the PGA Tour but couldn’t settle. Knox has an American father and grew up travelling to and from the United States and he speaks with a heavy American accent. With this win, not only does he gain entry to all four majors and will be in the World Top 30 today, he also gains a two year exemption to play the European Tour. “Obviously it’s going to be a goal of mine to make the European Ryder Cup Team and I look forward to giving it a run”. European Tour officials are now making plans with Russell for him to compete in enough qualifying events.