TWO weeks after watching helplessly as all 156 competitors headed out in the first round of the Open Championship, Russell Knox is delighted he will be just the second man to drive off at Valhalla tomorrow.
The 29-year-old was the second alternate when the Claret Jug joust got under way at Hoylake but missed out on making his debut in the game’s oldest major due to the fact there were no late withdrawals. “Though getting up to second alternate was a bit of a tease, I didn’t really expect to be playing in The Open,” Knox told The Scotsman after arriving in Louisville for the US PGA Championship. “It was only at the Scottish Open that someone mentioned I was the eighth alternate. It had never crossed my mind before and, after rising to second, I drove down, hung around all day then, after the last group went out, drove back up to Glasgow.”
He has made the journey from his home in Jacksonville to Kentucky safe in the knowledge this time that he won’t feel like a kid pressing his nose against the window of a sweetie shop. Through his efforts on the PGA Tour this season – he lies 44th in the FedEx Cup standings after three top-ten finishes – Knox knew last week that he had secured a spot in the season’s final major. “I was delighted to find out I was in the field, then learned that I was first out, which is my favourite tee time,” said the Invernesian, who will have Brian Norman and Roberto Castro for company tomorrow.
“This is only my second major, the first being last year’s US Open. I’m looking forward to giving it a blast. This is a big reward for me playing well this year and you get experience from playing in these events. It is nice to be at these big tournaments with strong fields and big prize-money.”
His winnings alone this season already amount to £800,000 – not much less than Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is 15th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai – and he still has the FedEx Cup play-offs to come. “I would like to make it all the way to the Tour Championship, but my main goal is to make it at least to the third one (the BMW Championship),” said Knox of a series in which the field reduces in size with each event.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself as it’s already been a good year and I don’t want to make it feel as though I have failed in any way. I want to keep things in perspective as it’s been a great season and nothing should change that really.”