Russell Knox backed by Bubba Watsno to make mark on PGA Tour

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MASTERS champion Bubba Watson has urged Scottish rookie Russell Knox to stay patient as he bids to recover from a shaky start to his PGA Tour career.

The game’s most recent major winner offered the advice after the pair played together in the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Sunday.

Knox, an Inverness exile who graduated from the Nationwide Tour last season, earned the chance to be in the same group as Watson after firing a spectacular 64 in his second round. And, although the 26-year-old closed with a 72 to finish in a tie for 30th, he still made a favourable impression on his playing partner.

“He played good and is a good talent,” said Watson when asked about Knox, who missed the cut in his first four events of the year before stopping the rot with another 30th-place finish in the Mayakoba Classic. “He’s a young kid and a also rookie out here. You’ve got to see the courses to get to know them. But he really hits the ball pretty straight and also putts and chips really well. You know, he’s just got to stay patient – it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Knox, who is up to 163rd in the FedEx Cup standings with earnings of just over £50,000, is hoping he can use his latest performance as a springboard for the rest of the season. “I haven’t played well this year so far, but it’s still been the best year of my life,” he admitted.

That view will no doubt be echoed by Jason Dufner after the American clinched his first win on the PGA Tour by beating Ernie Els in a play-off – a week before he gets married.

The pair were locked together after 72 holes after the South African had made up a three-shot deficit on the overnight leader with a round of 67. “It’s been tough trying to get this first win, so this is a little bit of a monkey off my back,” said Dufner after clinching his success with a birdie-4 at the second extra hole.

Luke Donald finished third to regain the world No 1 ranking, despite never being able to land a blow after a sluggish start that saw him pick up a solitary birdie through eight holes.

However, the Englishman plugged away and birdies at nine, 11 – where he chipped in from a difficult position – and 13 saw him move up the leaderboard before a routine two-putt at the closing hole took him into sole possession of third place with a 67.

Donald needed to finish in the top seven to re-take top spot from Rory McIlroy, who was taking the week off.

World rankings: 1 Luke Donald (Eng) 9.55pts, 2 Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 9.33, 3 Lee Westwood (Eng) 8.27, 4 Bubba Watson (USA) 6.40, 5 Hunter Mahan (USA) 5.70, 6 Steve Stricker (USA) 5.60, 7 Tiger Woods (USA) 5.35, 8 Martin Kaymer (Ger) 5.35, 9 Justin Rose (Eng) 5.19, 10 Phil Mickelson (USA) 5.17. Selected others: 37 Martin Laird (Sco) 2.91, 40 Ernie Els (Rsa) 2.88, 44 Paul Lawrie (Sco) 2.86, 70 Darren Clarke (NIrl) 2.14, 88 Stephen Gallacher (Sco) 1.73, 89 Richie Ramsay (Sco) 1.73.