Russell Knox’s rollercoaster ride in the Valspar Championship, the final leg of the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing, continued in the third round as the Scottish No 1 climbed back up the leaderboard with a four-under 67.
The gutsy effort, which almost included a hole-in-one on the back of an albatross he made in the opening round on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, came after he’d dug deep to make a late birdie in a second circuit that saw him drop seven shots in 10 holes to scrape into the weekend.
Knox, who still has an outside chance of joining Sandy Lyle in flying the Saltire at the Masters in just over a fortnight’s time, came to life again on the back nine, which he’d covered in 29 in the first round to open the $6.7 million event with a 67.
Level-par for the day to the turn, the Invernesian birdied the par-5 11th – the hole where he made the first albatross in the event’s history with a 3-wood from 275 yards on Thursday – before coming close to making an ace at the 170-yard 13th. He then knocked in a 25-foot birdie putt for another 2 at the 15th and, keeping the flag in once more, followed that up by rolling in a monster at the next hole.
Home in 31 on this occasion, the flurry moved him to three-under for the tournament and just outside the top 10 when he finished his round, having started the day seven shots behind the joint-leaders, defending champion Paul Casey and Austin Cook, in a tie for 49th spot.
Knox has now made 11 cuts in a row since making an early exit in the opening event of the US circuit’s wraparound season back in early October. Despite that consistency, he needs to climb from his current position of world No 62 into the top 50 by the end of this month to secure a late invitation for the Masters. His final roll of the dice will come in next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas.
On the European Tour, Spaniard Nacho Elvira set up a chance to claim his maiden victory after moving into a two-shot lead with a round to go in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia. As Belgian Thomas Pieters, the overnight leader, crashed out of contention with a 78, Elvira took route 66 as the 32-year-old swept into pole position at Saujana Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.
“I like the way things are right now with my swing,” said Elvira after moving to 13-under-par, with American David Lipsky his nearest challenger. “I like the way I’ve turned round my season a little bit. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Aberdonian David Law, who got into the event through his win in the Vic Open earlier in the season, sits joint 67th on two over after a 74.
Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam finished joint-15th in the Italian International Women’s Amateur in Sardinia after a last-round 76.