Russell Knox is confident he will earn a Ryder Cup debut this year, despite the biggest win of his career not counting towards qualification.
Knox was initially seventh reserve for the HSBC Champions event in November and only found out he would be making his World Golf Championship debut at Sheshan International a few days before, forcing his wife Andrea to spend a day at the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur to arrange their visas while he competed in the CIMB Classic.
A final round of 68 gave the 30-year-old the first prize of £900,000 and would have taken him top of the Ryder Cup qualifying race with 1,264,451 points if he had been a member of the European Tour. For reference, Jamie Donaldson needed 2,676,347 points to qualify in 2014.
Knox subsequently paid the £500 fee to take up membership and although he cannot retroactively claim the points from Shanghai, he believes his victory there will stand him in good stead if he misses out on automatic qualification.
“It’s a huge goal now,” said Knox, who is currently 17th in the world points list. “After I won in China, it was realistic to make the team, but at the same time, there’s still a lot to be done.
“Now I’ve finished second three times since that. I played good enough to be right up there at The Players Championship for 71 holes (he famously took nine on the 17th in the third round).
“So really, I’ve had four really good tournaments since then, and to be honest, I expect to make the team now. If I keep playing the way I’m going, I think I can do it and I sure hope I do.
“Wherever I am in the points list, arguably I’m higher up because my win didn’t count, but obviously (European captain) Darren Clarke knows that. But at the same time, I won that tournament, and no one can take that away from me, so we’ll see where it ends up.”
One of Knox’s runners-up finishes came in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last week, when he overturned a four-shot deficit to Rory McIlroy in the final round to lead by one with three holes to play.
However, McIlroy then produced a stunning approach to the par-five 16th from 272 yards and made birdie while Knox three-putted, before another brilliant shot to the 18th set up a tap-in eagle for the tournament host.
“It was amazing,” Knox added in a press conference ahead of his debut in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. “After 15 I was one ahead and I never thought I had the tournament obviously, because Rory is capable of anything, which he proved. The shot he hit into 16 was one of the best shots he’ll probably ever hit, and definitely that I’ve ever seen.
“It was a bummer obviously for me, but at the same time how can you not take a step back and say well done to Rory for that? He played the last three holes like a champion and he deserved to win because of it.”