It’s a ‘dream come true’ as 30-year-old from Inverness becomes first Scot to win WGC event, scooping £900,000 prize
Russell Knox was the toast of the golfing world last night after becoming the first Scottish player to win a World Golf Championship event, the game’s biggest tournaments after the majors.
The 30-year-old from Inverness, who had been seventh reserve for the event, secured a £900,000 pay-day for a sensational two-shot victory in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where he beat a stellar field that included world No 2 Jordan Spieth and third-ranked Rory McIlroy.
It was the finest moment for Scottish men’s golf since Paul Lawrie became Open champion at Carnoustie in 1999 and the best overall since Catriona Matthew won the women’s equivalent at Royal Lytham six years ago.
“Winning any professional tournament is a massive accomplishment, you’re never quite sure if you’re ever going to do it because there’s so many incredible players throughout the world, especially at tournaments like this with such an elite field,” admitted Knox after signing off with a closing 68 at Sheshan International for a 20-under-par 268 total to finish ahead of American Kevin Kisner.
“To come and be on top this week is a dream come true. I still can’t quite believe I’m here. I was quite calm. But, at the same time, that was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done.”
Knox, who has lived in the United States most of his life and is now based in Jacksonville Beach in Florida, is the first player to win a WGC event on his debut since American Jeff Maggert was victorious in the inaugural one – the Cadillac Match Play – in 1999. He is also just the seventh to record a breakthrough PGA Tour triumph in those tournaments, joining the likes of Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter.
The success, which could see Knox leap into the top 30 in the world today from 85th, was greeted with widespread praise from fellow players, including Lawrie and current Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler. “Awesome win for a great guy – so chuffed for him,” wrote Lawrie on Twitter, where Fowler described Knox’s performance as “great playing” in recording a “huge win”.
It has secured the Scot an invitation to the Masters at Augusta next April and also thrust Knox into the frame as a serious contender for the 2016 Ryder Cup, though he missed out on a chance to rocket to the top of the points list for the match at Hazeltine due to not being a European Tour member. He now has to wait for the new season starting in South Africa next month to join.
“Obviously it’s going to be a goal of mine to make the European Ryder Cup team and this springboards me to a place where obviously yesterday I was nowhere near,” said Knox. “I have no idea where I stand on making the team or what I need to do. But I look forward to finding out and giving it a run, that’s for sure.”
One of the events on his schedule next season will be the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart on the outskirts of Inverness. Having grown up in the Highland capital, the event’s return there for the first time since 2013 has been handed a huge early boost.
“This is going to take an awful long time to sink in, it just feels incredible,” admitted Knox, who only got into the event a week past Friday following the withdrawal of JB Holmes and had his wife, Andrea, to thank for spending a whole day at the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur organising a visa for him. “It’s so emotional right now, it’s amazing to win a tournament of this stature.”