8am Round-Up: Russell Knox off to winning start in WGC Match Play

Russell Knox shakes hands with Bill Haas after beating the American 3&2 in Texas. Picture: Getty Images

Russell Knox shakes hands with Bill Haas after beating the American 3&2 in Texas. Picture: Getty Images

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Russell Knox saw his confidence flood back as he made a winning start in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play - after teeing off happy in Texas seeing a Saltire beside his name on the main scoreboard.

The 31-year-old opened his campaign in Austin with a 3&2 win over six-time PGA Tour winner Bill Haas in a match that saw him go two up early on before stretching his advantage to three at the start of the back nine.

It was a timely boost for Knox in his Masters build up after the world No 21 had missed three cuts in four starts coming into this tournament, his final outing before the season’s opening major in a fortnight’s time at Augusta National.

“Bill will admit he didn’t play all that well today, but then the good thing is that I didn’t give him anything today except the one hole, the 12th where I had a bogey, so that was good,” Knox told golfbytourmiss.com.

“Other than that I was pretty solid and that is what match-play is all about - not to give your opponent anything.”

The confidence-boosting display came in his first competitive outing with a new Srixon ‘Z 565’ driver, having struggled to find a suitable replacement for one he cracked during last year’s Irish Open at The K Club.

“It’s just great to have a driver to my liking back in the bag,” he admitted. “Even after this one match using the driver, I am now so much more confident walking on to the tee.

“Driving and putting has always been my strong points and if I can get it in play off the tee, that I normally do, then like today that was the key to win today against a very strong opponent.

Before teeing off, Knox had been delighted to see that a Scotland flag - not the Stars and Stripes that had been there earlier in the week - was beside his name on the main scoreboard at Austin Country Club.

“I had a little look at the board to see that they found a Scottish flag to put beside my name as being Scottish I am glad to see the Scottish flag up there alongside my name,” he said.

“I am here competing in these World Golf Championships representing Scotland, so it’s good to see it all sorted.”

His opponent today is Korean K T Kim, who will also head into that match with a spring in his step after a 4&2 opening-day win over Masters champion Danny Willett.

Knox was among 10 European winners in the first batch of matches, the others being Soren Kjeldsen, Paul Casey, Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren, Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood, Martin Kaymer, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Tyrrell Hatton.

Dane Kjeldsen pulled off one of the day’s big shocks, beating world No 2 and 2015 winner Rory McIlroy 2&1 after making four birdies in a row at the finish.

“Obviously the odds were against me but I played great today,” said Kjeldsen. “I loved this course last year, so I really wanted to make the field this week.”

McIlroy was not the only big name to find himself facing an uphill battle to make the knock-out stage after Jordan Spieth lost 4&2 to Japan’s Hideto Tanihara.

Results

Branden Grace (Rsa) bt Andy Sullivan 4 & 2

William McGirt (USA) bt Brandt Snedeker (USA) 2 up

Soren Kjeldsen (Den) bt Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 2 & 1

Gary Woodland (USA) bt Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 3 & 2

Paul Casey (Eng) bt Joost Luiten (Ned) 2 & 1

Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) bt Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 6 & 5

Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) bt Jordan Spieth (USA) 4 & 2

Yuta Ikeda (Jpn) Tied to Ryan Moore (USA)

Bubba Watson (USA) bt Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 1 up

Thomas Pieters (Bel) bt Scott Piercy (USA) 3 & 2

Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) bt Ross Fisher 4 & 3

Brooks Koepka (USA) bt Kevin Kisner (USA) 6 & 5

Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) Tied to Jim Furyk (USA)

Jason Dufner (USA) Tied to Patrick Reed (USA)

Alex Noren (Swe) bt Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 3 & 2

Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) bt Francesco Molinari (Ita) 2 up

Dustin Johnson (USA) bt Webb Simpson (USA) 5 & 3

Matt Kuchar (USA) Tied to Brendan Steele (USA)

Tommy Fleetwood bt Zach Johnson (USA) 1 up

Martin Kaymer (Ger) bt Jimmy Walker (USA) 3 & 2

K.T. Kim (Kor) bt Daniel Willett 4 & 2

Russell Knox bt Bill Haas (USA) 3 & 2

Justin Thomas (USA) bt Chris Wood 2 & 1

Kevin Na (USA) bt Matthew Fitzpatrick 5 & 4

Phil Mickelson (USA) bt Si Woo Kim (Kor) 5 & 3

Daniel Berger (USA) bt J.B. Holmes (USA) 7 & 5

Pat Perez (USA) bt Jason Day (Aus) WD

Marc Leishman (Aus) bt Lee Westwood (Eng) 3 & 2

Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) bt Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 4 & 3

Tyrrell Hatton bt Charles Howell III (USA) 2 & 1

Sergio Garcia (Spa) Tied to Shane Lowry

Jon Rahm (Spa) bt Kevin Chappell (USA) 3 & 2

***

David Law made a solid start as the 2017 Challenge Tour campaign got underway in the Barclays Kenya Open in Nairobi this morning.

The Aberdonian was out in level-par at Muthaiga Golf Club, having offset a birdie at the fourth with a dropped shot three holes later.

South African Jaco Ahlers was on course to set a hot pace, sitting three shot clear of the field on seven-under after 12 holes.

The four other Scots in the field - Craig Lee, Chris Doak, Ross Kellett and Bradley Neil - were due out in the afternoon wave.

***

Edinburgh-based American Beth Allen is looking forward to one of the highlights of her career today when she makes a first KIA Classic appearance close to her home city of San Diego.

“It is going to be a blast,” said last season’s LET Order of Merit winner. “I’m really looking forward to playing in front of family and friends. It will certainly be one of the more fun weeks I’ve ever had on Tour.”

Allen, who is joined in the Carlsbad event by Catriona Matthew, is hoping to maintain the form that saw her finish joint-31st in last week’s event in Phoenix.

“That was great, especially playing with Brooke Henderson in front of a big gallery on Saturday,” she added.

“I was disappointed with level par Sunday, but it was a solid week and I have a lot of good things going in my game.”

***

Sean Lawrie is the new North-East Alliance champion after claiming the crown by five shots at Craibstone.

The 24-year-old, who is Paul Lawrie’s nephew, followed up a 66 at Portlethen a week earlier with a five-under 64 to leave the field trailing in his wake.

Greig Hutcheon made it a Paul Lawrie Golf Centre 1-2 after rounds of 66 and 69, with Moray’s Jake Scott (73-65) in third spot.

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