Alexander Knappe still smiling despite 'horrible 88' in Dunhill Links at St Andrews

He’s won twice on the Challenge Tour this year and has already secured a card for the 2023 DP World Tour heading into the season-ending Grand Final in Mallorca this week, so Alexander Knappe has good reason to be a happy man.

Germany's Alexander Knappe, right, is battling with South African J.C. Ritchie, left, and Swiss star Jeremy Freiburghaus, centre, to finish as the Challenge Tour No 1 at the end of this week's Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A at Club de Golf Alcanada in Mallorca. Picture: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images.
Germany's Alexander Knappe, right, is battling with South African J.C. Ritchie, left, and Swiss star Jeremy Freiburghaus, centre, to finish as the Challenge Tour No 1 at the end of this week's Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A at Club de Golf Alcanada in Mallorca. Picture: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images.

The German even had a smile on his face when he opened up to The Scotsman about his day from hell in last month’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, having suffered more than anyone in brutal conditions on the second day for the $6 million pro-am.

Playing on the Old Course at St Andrews, Knappe signed for an 88, running up a quintuple-bogey 9 at the 16th then following that with a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 17th as he covered the back nine in 52.

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“It was brutal weather. But, at the same time, I could probably have saved ten strokes if I had rain gloves and some proper gear,” said the 33-year-old, speaking at Club de Golf Alcanada in Mallorca. “I wasn’t really prepared for rain and I had a really bad umbrella, though I’m not blaming that. After six holes, I had no gloves left. The clubs were slipping out of my hands.

“I can always play well in the rain and wind, but, when it gets cold as well, my body doesn’t really function that well. So, the next time I go to Scotland I will bring some things that help heat me out on the course. What can I put on my back, for instance, so that my spine can stay mobile because I just couldn’t move that day.”

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In fairness, he wasn’t the only player to be made to look a bit foolish. Playing at Kingsbarns, Belgian Thomas Pieters shot 83, which was sandwiched between a 65 at Carnoustie and a 64 at St Andrews.

“It was horrible, but it was a team event and I tried to make one or two birdies coming in, even though my score was already through the roof,” added Knappe. “I didn’t give in, but 88 doesn’t sound nice. The last five holes I was shaking, I couldn’t do anything. Teeing up the ball was a challenge and, if I hadn’t been playing in a team event, I would definitely have considered giving in.

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“Also, the next day at Carnoustie I shot level par, which is maybe nothing special but it was definitely better than the day before. I had to come back as it’s a team event and you have to try your best.

“I am still smiling. Golf doesn’t change who I am. Sometimes we have terrible rounds. We don’t do it on purpose. Sometimes things in our life affect our life and people don’t see that. But, as long as you can be all right with yourself, I think that is fine.”

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Knappe sits third in the Road to Mallorca Rankings behind Swiss star Jeremy Freiburghaus and South African JC Ritchie heading into the season finale, which starts on Friday. Two other German players, Freddy Schott and Max Schmitt, are also in card-winning positions as 45 players battle it out for 20 coveted cards on the main tour.

With Max Keiffer having won the D+D Real Czech Masters in August, Yannick Paul then landing his breakthrough success in the recent Mallorca Open and Marcel Schneider and Nicolai Von Dellingshausen both knocking on the door as well, these are exciting times once again for German golf.

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“It’s amazing,” said Knappe, who won the season-opening Dimension Data Pro-Am in South Africa before adding the B-NL Challenge Trophy in Belgium. “Looking back five years, we got so much slagging. People were saying that we can’t perform and that German golf was at its bottom. But now 10-15 guys are playing really well on big stages.

“When we were younger, we’d see the French guys or Spanish players watching one of their guys get a win then the others just followed. I think the same is happening with German golf now. We see Nicolai Von Dellingshausen, for example, finishing second or Yannick Paul winning and we know that we can actually beat those guys, so we can win as well.”

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Can one of them kick on and join both Bernhard Langer and Martin Kaymer in becoming major champions? “I hope so,” replied Knappe. “We will see what happens. There are some really good talents and good players, so the next few years are going to be exciting.”

As will be the case this week as the Grand Final, which has Rolex as a partner and is also supported by The R&A, is broadcast live for the first time. “It would be nice if I could have a great week, but, at the same time, I am already happy that I can play on the main tour next season, so it is a relaxed week for me,” declared Knappe, smiling once again.

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