Russell Knox won’t be trying to “force” friendships on the European Tour in his bid to play in next year’s Ryder Cup, insisting he wants to get on Thomas Bjorn’s team in Paris in a “natural” way by letting his golf do the talking.
Immediately after his bitter disappointment of missing out on one of Darren Clarke’s picks for last year’s match in Minnesota despite winning a World Golf Championship and a PGA Tour event in the previous 12 months, Knox admitted his case hadn’t been helped by him being based in the US.
He reckoned that, as a result of that, he didn’t really have anyone to plead his case when Clarke and his vice-captains made their three wild-card selections, which went instead to European-based trio Thomas Pieters, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
Still hurting from that, Knox is determined to make the team for the next match and played in the French Open at Le Golf National, the venue for that, a fortnight ago to acquaint himself with the course. But the 32-year-old has no intention of trying to become best pals with Bjorn or anyone else in a bid to strengthen his case for selection.
“I’m not really here to sit down and pal around with people,” stressed the Scottish No 1 as he prepared to spearhead a 12-strong home challenge in the £5.5 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links. “It’s not really my personality to do that. Over time, I’m sure I’ll get chatting with Thomas here and there and I’m also sure I’ll play with him eventually. It will be the same with the other guys who are going to be in the team. But I don’t think it needs to be forced because then it’s not natural.
“The Ryder Cup is obviously a huge goal, and it’s all up to me. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone to make the team. If you can play well, you will earn your way in and, if I can do that, then I’m on the way to creating a lot of good friendships that will hopefully last forever.”
On current form, having suffered a bit of dip since he was as high as 18th in the world rankings, Knox admits he wouldn’t even be in the Ryder Cup picture, but he is hoping a return to home soil can spark his season. “The bottom line is I’ve got to do a lot better than I’ve been doing the last four or five months to even be in the conversation,” he said. “But the good thing is the points haven’t started yet, so maybe I’m just waiting my time until they start. My season has been a disappointment, but four good weeks could change it in a heartbeat. My whole year could come down to these next four events – here, then the Open Championship, Firestone [venue for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational] and the USPGA.”
As Knox has been slipping down the rankings – he is currently 48th – Martin Laird, the other Scot who plays on the PGA Tour, has been moving in the opposite direction. On the back of four top tens in the US circuit’s wraparound season, the 34-year-old Glaswegian is back inside the world’s top 100 for the first time in more than three years and, on current form, has a great chance of getting into the Ryder Cup reckoning himself. “It’s always something you’d love to be a part of, but I’m not making decisions or schedule changes based on that,” said Laird, who, unlike Knox, currently isn’t a European Tour card holder and will need to fill the requirement next season to be eligible for Paris.
“I don’t want to be charging around the world away from my two young kids with no guarantee of getting in the team. I’m just going to worry about getting my game back to where I know it can be.”
The three-time PGA Tour winner is well on the way in that respect. He was forced to miss the Scottish Open last year as he battled to hang on to his card in the US, but he has been galvanised by succeeding in that respect and looks in the mood to get back to winning ways.
“It was about this time last year that I started turning things around,” he said. “It was a backs-against-the-wall situation in regards to my card last year. It wasn’t a nice situation. I took the whole of April off when my daughter was born and I really struggled after that. I hadn’t really had that since my first year on tour when I was fighting to keep my card. I was thinking ‘what will I do if I lose my card and don’t get all the events?’ But I got a nice run going and was OK. I came out this year and have had four top tens and have safeguarded the card already.
“It’s nice to be here in a totally different situation and I also now have the bonus of the Open [having qualified for next week’s event through tying for third in the Quicken Loans National]. But a bad spell makes you appreciate when you are playing well. You forget how hard it is to be in the top 50 and it makes you more hungry to get back there.”