Russell Knox has vowed to use his controversial omission from Darren Clarke’s three Ryder Cup wild-card picks as motivation to prove the European captain wrong by winning the FedEx Cup.
Despite being the world No 20 and recording two big victories in the past 10 months, the 31-year-old Scot lost out to young Belgian Thomas Pieters for the last of Clarke’s picks as the European captain also added experienced duo Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood to his team for next month’s match in Minnesota.
Knox, who finished just outside the nine automatic spots and would have qualified under his own steam if points from a win in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China last November had counted, admitted the disappointment he is feeling due to the decision was likely to make it “difficult” for him to watch the event at Hazeltine.
The Invernesian also said he’d be aiming to let his clubs do the talking in trying to respond to Clarke overlooking him by landing one of the biggest prizes in the game the Sunday before the biennial bout gets underway.
“It’s certainly motivated me for the next three weeks, that’s for sure,” admitted Knox, who had looked to be in a strong position to earn a pick until Pieters birdied the last three holes in the Made in Denmark tournament on Sunday to win the final event in Europe’s year-long qualifying campaign.
“I’ve never wanted to prove someone wrong so badly in my life, I think. It’s not sour grapes or anything. Darren had an extremely difficult decision and all of those three guys were worthy of a pick. But I have to use this as a springboard to try and win the FedEx Cup [he’s lying seventh after the opening event in the PGA Tour’s end-of-season play-off series].”
Clarke, who will be aiming to steer Europe to an unprecedented four Ryder Cup wins in a row, broke the bad news to Knox over the phone on Monday night, admitting that it had been “one of the toughest calls I’ve ever made”.
Knox revealed he knew straight away that it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
“When Darren called me it was obvious within one second that is wasn’t going to be good news,” he added. “It was a tough call for him to make. He obviously didn’t want to give me bad news, but that was the decision he made. It was a very short phone call.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to ask any questions or give my opinion on anything. It was obvious that he had made up his mind and that was final. I respected his decision. It was short and brief.
“I was very disappointed not to have gotten the nod. But I’ll use this as motivation. Would I do anything differently? No, I wouldn’t. I’m happy with my life the way it is at the moment. Obviously I’m playing the best golf of my life and whatever I’m doing right now is working.”
Speaking at Wentworth, Clarke said he’d asked Knox, having given himself a chance to qualify automatically by winning the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour three weeks ago, to play in the Wyndham Championship. A high finish in that event could have seen him jump ahead of Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick to claim the ninth and final automatic berth, but Knox opted to stick with the schedule he’d mapped out in the build up to the FedEx Cup Play-Offs.
“I hope the decision not to play the Wyndham ultimately had nothing to do with it,” he said. “Maybe it did, but I’m sure no-one will ever talk about that. I’m happy with the decision I made. I felt it was the best one for me, and I don’t think it would have made a difference anyway.”
The disappointment for Knox means that the Scottish connection in this Ryder Cup will be provided by two vice-captains - Sam Torrance and Paul Lawrie - as well as two caddies in Craig Connolly, who works for Martin Kaymer, and Mark Crane, who will be on Chris Wood’s bag.
“I don’t know to be honest,” replied Knox on being asked if he felt anything in particular had worked against him or in favour of Pieters in particular. “Thomas has played incredible stuff over the last three weeks. But, when you look at form, the Ryder Cup is still a month away. It’s hard to say of someone is playing well just now they’ll be playing good in a month or vice versa. But Thomas deserves it, 100 per cent. He’s been incredible. I feel like I deserved to be there, too, but those guys [Clarke and his vice-captain] thought otherwise.
“It’s going to be difficult for me to watch it, but I probably will, and I’ll be rooting for the team of course. I wish them all the best and hope they win. I feel like I deserve to be there and should be playing but I’m not, so I have to respect the decision that’s been made.
“Every year there’s a guy in my position that doesn’t get picked and it’s a story right now, but in a couple of weeks’ time when it all starts, I’m sure it’ll be forgotten that I’m not in the team.”