IT IS appropriate in the Year of Homecoming that Inverness-born Russell Knox is preparing to play his first professional tournament on Scottish soil.
Knox, who is making a name for himself on the PGA Tour, where he finished runner-up to Russell Henley in the Honda Classic after a four-man play-off that also included Rory McIlroy and Ryan Palmer, is relishing competing in next month’s Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen.
The 28-year-old, now domiciled in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, cannot remember exactly when he last played links golf but it may be as long as seven years ago, in the British Amateur Championship. However, Knox is not put off by his lack of practice or the outstanding quality of the world-class field for the £3million Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event.
He is also looking forward to returning to the city he regards as his second home in Scotland after developing a passion for supporting Aberdeen Football Club. Indeed, Knox is keen to fit in a return trip to Pittodrie, should the home leg of the Dons’ Europa League qualifying tie coincide with events at neighbouring Royal Aberdeen.
“I had friends who lived in Forres and they were Aberdeen fans, too, so we’d drive through occasionally to watch the team,” Knox said. “So that’s absolutely something I’d consider if it was an option.” Recalling a previous visit to the venue, for the Scottish Stroke Play in 2005, he added: “It was typical Scottish weather, cold, wet and windy on an extremely difficult golf course. But I played reasonably well to achieve one of my better finishes in an amateur event.
“I also grew up playing Nairn Dunbar and while the game over here is different, I still try to hit Scottish shots now and again to keep it interesting. My closest friend back home is Duncan Stewart, who plays on the Challenge Tour, but I haven’t kept in touch with many Scots although I very much look forward to coming home and meeting people I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Knox, the son of a US citizen and a Scottish mother, says he feels perfectly at home in America. He stressed: “I am very comfortable in the United States and this has been a great year for me. I am seeing steady improvements in my game and I have been getting results playing against some of the best golfers.
“I was never a standout as an amateur and when I came over to the States to attend college I wasn’t one of the top players. But I spent three or four years playing on the mini-tours and did okay before moving onto the Web.com Tour, where I was able to win, so I feel like I’ve had time to progress as the levels have increased,” added Knox, who is also planning to play more regularly in Europe in an effort to fulfil his ambition to play in the Ryder Cup in two years’ time.
Meantime, Knox is rightly proud of his achievement in becoming one of a select group of players to shoot 59 in a professional tournament after he posted the magic number in the second round of last year’s Albertsons Bois Open.
He added: “That was the best golfing day of my life. To shoot a 59 your mindset and the conditions have to be perfect and there was no wind and the course in Idaho was fairly easy. I also holed three or four of the longest putts I’ve made in a row.”