Make this happen. Three words that sent a shudder down my spine when reading a comment the other day about the Player of the Year poll being run by Scottish Golf ahead of February’s glitzy annual awards ceremony in Edinburgh. I won’t name the candidate that remark related to as I don’t think that would be fair to the individual in question, but, sorry, it simply can’t happen.
Put it this way, the candidate in question wasn’t Russell Knox and, if he’s not the 2016 Scottish Player of the Year, then we should just turn off the lights and let someone else lay claim to being the home of golf. Sorry, but that really is just about the only way to sum up how wrong it would be for anyone other than Knox to receive that accolade for the second year running.
Why? Well, first and foremost, we are talking here about the player who has easily done more than any of his compatriots to do the Saltire proud on the golfing stage over the past 12 months, the Invernesian having won on the game’s toughest circuit, the PGA Tour, when claiming the Travellers Championship, and only being denied success on the European Tour by some Rory McIlroy magic in the Irish Open.
Add in the fact Knox finished tenth – the best-ever by a Scot – in the US circuit’s FedEx Cup and is set to finish the year sitting in the top 20 in the world and there is no need for a poll, especially in a season when no-one really produced anything either close to being nearly as successful as the 31-year-old or out of the ordinary.
Knox, of course, was controversially overlooked by Darren Clarke for one of his Ryder Cup wild-cards, though, at the same time, the Scot admitted he’d probably have gone about some things differently if he could wind back that particular clock and you’ve surely got to think that it was a mistake on his part to decline the European captain’s advice to play in the Wyndham Championship when he still had a chance to make that team under his own steam. What most certainly can’t be allowed to happen now is that Knox is snubbed by his ain folk, and please don’t fall into that trap of refusing to acknowledge the impact he has had on the game just because he happens to live in Florida and rarely visits these shores.
As Keir McNicoll, who had the pleasure of watching Knox in action at close quarters when he caddied for Duncan Stewart as the pair joined forces in the recent World Cup of Golf in Australia, pointed out, Scotland has a world-class player in its ranks at the moment and we all need to appreciate that, even though he may not have been our TV screens as much as others.
“It was great watching Russell Knox as he’s a fantastic player,” said McNicoll, a former St Andrews Links Trophy winner who turned professional after becoming the first Scottish golfer to reach a plus-six handicap. “I think he is still a bit under the radar here due to the fact he plays over in America. He’s top 20 in the world and it’s easy to see why. He’s got the respect of his fellow players and also the caddies. Every shot seems to come out of the middle of the club. He has such great control of the golf ball. It was a bit like watching Ronnie O’Sullivan playing snooker and controlling the cue ball. He is very, very good.”
Seriously, can anyone really come up with a genuine candidate for Player of the Year on this particular occasion? Yes, of course, it was a fantastic achievement by Catriona Matthew to play for Team GB at the age of 46 as golf made its return to the Olympics in Brazil after more than 100 years. Yes, it was quite a feat by Euan McIntosh top the Scottish Men’s Order of Merit at 47 and also secure a return to the Home Internationals after a 27-year gap. Yes, it was a great success by young Connor Syme to win the Australian Amateur Championship.
Compare any of those efforts, though, against what Knox has achieved at the pinnacle of the sport in 2016 and it’s not even close, is it? So to anyone who is trying to stir up support for another of the candidates, please don’t “make this happen”. Russell Knox will need to keep climbing those rankings and probably also have to win a major to be in Andy Murray’s league. He’s doing us proud, all the same, and let’s see him rewarded in a fitting and proper manner.