Scotland’s Russell Knox believes the next six weeks will determine whether he deserves to make his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in September.
The biggest win of Knox’s career did not count towards qualification because he was not a European Tour member when he triumphed in the HSBC Champions event last November.
The first prize of £900,000 would have taken him top of the Ryder Cup standings at the time and although he subsequently paid the £500 fee to take up membership, he cannot retrospectively claim the points from Shanghai.
However, since then the US-based 30-year-old has finished second in two PGA Tour events and was also runner-up to Rory McIlroy in the Irish Open, with a key part of the season now coming up.
“I do think about the Ryder Cup,” Knox said after completing a 70 with five straight pars in the delayed first round of the US Open at Oakmont. “I look at it this way. From now until the end of the US PGA Championship in late July is my time to prove I’m good enough to make the team.
“I have three majors, a World Golf Championship and my home Open to play in. If I don’t qualify for the team it will be because I don’t deserve to. I won’t have played well enough. And if I do play well in the next six weeks or so there is no way I won’t be on the team. It’s that simple. It’s up to me. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Knox is playing in just his second US Open after finishing 45th at Merion in 2013, but feels the tough conditions could work in his favour.
“I did feel that this course could suit my game,” the world No 25 added. “You have to hit the fairways and greens. If you don’t, chances are you are going to make bogey. That’s why there is going to be a massive divide in the scores. If you play well, it is very doable. But if you are a little off you can shoot millions.
“Over four days everyone is going to have good and bad spells. The guys who are in contention come Sunday will be the ones who have survived their bad spells.
“I’m thrilled to shoot 70. I made an awesome par there on the last hole after driving into the fairway bunker, so that was a super way to finish. The course was like concrete in the practice rounds. It was survival. I mean, if you made a par, it was like a birdie.
“Obviously now it’s very soft. It makes it easier off the tee, but also it makes the holes 20, 30 yards longer. ”
Jordan Spieth has not given up hope of defending his title despite an opening 72.
Fellow American Andrew Landry had set the clubhouse target with a four-under 66, the lowest first-round score in nine US Opens at Oakmont as players took advantage of the softer conditions. But Spieth believes tournament organisers will take steps to ensure the winning score is close to level par when they set the course up for the remainder of the week.
“I didn’t shoot myself out of it,” the world No 2 said. “Ideally I would have been where the leader is at four under, but I honestly don’t think that was even possible for our tee time.
“I think that those that went off first had it best out of our wave. So I’m not really sure how my score stands right now. But I know that at the end of the day, the USGA is going to try to have even par win the golf tournament, and I know that I can shoot two under in the remaining 54 holes no matter how the course plays. I know I’m capable of it.”
Landry had faced a birdie putt on the ninth, his final hole, when play was abandoned for the day on Thursday after numerous thunderstorms dumped more than an inch of rain on the course.
And the world No 624 calmly holed out from ten feet when play resumed yesterday to complete his 66.
“Someone just told me I broke the record so that’s pretty cool,” said the 28-year-old from Texas, who had not even shot lower than 68 this season in 11 starts in his rookie year on the PGA Tour. “I think the US Open suits my game so well because I’m not a guy who is going to make lots of birdies. I’m going to make a lot of pars and hang in there. It’s a hard golf course and those are the type that suit me really well.”
Lee Westwood had four holes to play yesterday and completed them in two under thanks to birdies on the eighth and ninth, the 43-year-old signing for a three-under-par 67, his lowest opening round in 17 US Open appearances.
The former world No 1 then received the welcome news that Thursday’s early starters would not start their second rounds until today after initially being given a start time of 8:43pm yesterday evening.
Westwood’s 67 was later matched by American Dustin Johnson, while Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Ireland’s Shane Lowry were just a shot behind. However Masters champion Danny Willett struggled to a 75 and McIlroy bogeyed his last three holes for a 77.