While it genuinely seemed as though playing most of his golf on the PGA Tour could help Russell Knox secure a Ryder Cup debut in America, the Scot reckons the opposite was actually the case.
As he spent a second day trying to come to terms with the disappointment of missing out on one of Darren Clarke’s wild cards for the match at Hazeltine at the end of this month, Knox steadfastly refused to be critical of the European captain or any of his vice-captains.
However, in reflecting on a qualifying campaign that saw him lose out in the end to Belgian Thomas Pieters for the last of Clarke’s three picks, the 31-year-old said he’d almost felt like an outsider among the European hopefuls.
“Playing full-time in the US probably hurt me, to be honest,” said Knox, who worked his way up to the PGA Tour, where he’s won twice in the last 10 months, after deciding to base himself on the other side of the Atlantic after he graduated from Jacksonville University.
“I know I joined the European Tour (he became a member this year but wasn’t at the time he won the WGC-HSBC Champions in China last November so didn’t get any Ryder Cup points) but, correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think anyone has got a pick for Europe while playing full-time in the US.”
To fulfil the European Tour membership requirement, Knox played in five events – the Nedbank Challenge, HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, BMW PGA Championship, Irish Open and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open – during the current campaign but, at the same time, concentrated mainly on the PGA Tour.
“That hurt me for a few reasons,” he added. “I didn’t allow me to have a relationship with anyone. I mean, I’m not close with any of them, Darren, Paul Lawrie (one of five European vice-captains). Nobody really reached out, nor did I, to get closer or get more friendly.
“Don’t take this out of context. It’s not their job to reach out, hold my hand and drag me through. It was 100 per cent my responsibility to do my part and maybe try and include myself a bit more.
“But it’s not about friends. It’s not about having 12 best friends on the team. It’s having the 12 best European players that Darren feels he can win the Ryder Cup with and clearly he didn’t feel I was one of those 12. I have to be OK with that. I’m happy with what I’ve done and how I’ve played. I gave everything to make the team and it wasn’t meant to be.”
That lack of any real friendships for Knox within the European camp was certainly evident as the vast majority of the voices pressing his claim for a wild card seemed to be American ones, including Jordan Spieth, who said he felt it would be “ridiculous” if Knox wasn’t picked by Clarke.
But, while you certainly wouldn’t like to think it was responsible for him being overlooked in favour of Pieters or the two other selections, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, there can be no denying that a captain’s pick made by Knox himself has proved to be ill-considered.
As the highest-ranked Scot in the world rankings, he got to choose his partner for the World Cup in Australia later in the year and opted for Duncan Stewart, the pair having come through the amateur ranks together and being inseparable when they were at Jacksonville University at the same time.
In fairness to Knox, it wasn’t as though he plucked a name from thin air but, before making that decision, he didn’t consult any of the six players above Challenge Tour card holder Stewart on the world rankings – the highest at the time having been Richie Ramsay but now Martin Laird.
The result of that, unfortunately, is that he’s put noses out of joint when that could easily have been avoidable, though again perhaps it is another example of Knox not being connected to the European Tour in the way he’d like and is something he probably needs to address going forward.
Clarke, meanwhile, was not surprised to hear that Knox is aiming to waste no time trying to prove him wrong by going all out in the final three events on the PGA Tour season to try and win the FedEx Cup, sitting seventh on the standings heading into this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.
“When I broke the news to Russell, I actually told him the best way he could react was by winning the FedEx Cup title. And I genuinely hope he does it,” said the former Open champion.
“I had to make a judgement on the evidence as it stood at the time when I needed to name my wild cards.
“Russell has been in tremendous form over the past year, but I just felt Thomas had shown me a bit more. If Russell was to win the FedEx Cup, I suppose it might be something the European Tour and future captains might want to look at. But, as things stand, I’m happy with the choice I’ve made.”
With an American father and holding a US passport himself, Knox could make himself available for the US instead in the future, though it appears he would have to wait until the 2020 match at Whistling Straits for that to become an option.