It was always going to be a tough call for Darren Clarke. He chose Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters and omitted Russell Knox. After the second round of this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship Knox said “I was very disappointed to get the call telling me I wasn’t on the team but I’ve got to respect the decision of Darren Clarke and his team”.
With his world ranking of 20, 2 wins and 2 second places on the PGA Tour in any other year choosing Knox would have been high on the captain’s agenda. If Knox had been a member of the European tour he would have earned enough points from his win in the HSBC Champions Champions event in China last year to automatically qualify for the team. But that must have been a major factor in the decision. Knox came over and played in only four events as a non-member, although he was runner up in the Irish Open. He also said that “he barely spoke to anyone on the European Tour and I had that going against me”. This seems to be a big factor, that he didn’t take up membership of the European Tour, nor try to get to know his team mates.
He also had to compete for a place against Thomas Pieters whose run of form, with a particularly hot putter, has been so impressive in the past few weeks. Fourth place in the Olympic Games, beaten by a birdie on the last green in the Czech Open and three successive birdies to win the Made In Denmark event.
He is amused by the covert operation to get him a Captain’s pick so that he can play for the United States team. His dual nationality – his father is American and he has lived in the United States most of his life – means that there is a remote possiblity. Knox says of this “Know that there are a few people talking about it, but its not going to happen”.
However, there is still a remote possibility that Russell Knox could play. Under the Captains Agreement if one of the automatically qualified players has to pull out then the place goes to the next highest ranked player on the World Rankings, which is Knox. With Henrik Stenson withdrawing from The Barclays last week with a flare up of the knee injury which he had surgery for at the end of last year, there is a niggle of doubt about whether he will be fit to play.
If this does happen and Knox is automatically picked would his heart belong to the European team? It is certainly the first time that someone with dual nationality has been eligible for a Ryder Cup side. I believe that if Russell had truly wanted to play for the European Team he should have taken up tour membership and got to know his team mates. Because the Europeans do know each other, they bond like brothers, and this is why the Americans have lost so many times because they are a group of 12 individuals who for the other 103 non-Ryder Cup weeks knock seven bells put of each other, including the Presidents Cup week. This was my concern about Russell Knox playing for the Europeans, that he might have been an American in European clothing, and would not have had his heart and soul in it.
The Ryder Cup is not for the feint hearted, nor the half hearted.