Russell Knox is aiming to switch from “vacation” to work mode today when he makes his first appearance as a full European Tour member in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in South Africa.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” admitted the Scottish No 1 as he prepared for his first reward for breaking into the world’s top 30 through winning the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last month. Unfortunately for Knox, he missed out on the 1.2 million points on offer in the Ryder Cup qualification race due to the fact that he wasn’t a European Tour member at the time.
He is now, though, and, with big points on offer again in the $6.5m event, Knox is determined to finish his 2015 calendar campaign with another strong performance.
“It’s my first event as a European Tour member and it’s my first time ever to South Africa, so it’s a pretty cool week for me,” he added. “It feels like I’m on vacation – it’s a shame I have to play golf! Seriously, though, it’s a big event and is a great opportunity to get some points on the board early in the season. It’s a fantastic way to finish the year.”
Just ask Danny Willett. The Yorkshireman won this title 12 months ago and has since jumped from 83rd in the world rankings to 20th.
Retaining the title would mark a massive step for Willett in his bid to make next year’s Ryder Cup team, an ambition that has seen the 28-year-old turn down a PGA Tour card for 2016.
“This next year I’ll be knuckling down playing in Europe and trying to get another couple of wins, getting in contention and becoming familiar with being in contention a lot,” said Willett.
“I want to see how I cope with the pressure of pitching up to events as one of the favourites and expecting to win. It’s going to put a different spin on how I approach things. Depending on how next year goes I might take a PGA Tour card the following year.”
The 30-man field at the Gary Player Country Club also includes world No 7 Keegan Bradley and home favourites Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.