Russell Knox hoped he’d wake up today thinking he was Andy Sullivan. Not because the Englishman is effervescent, leading the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship or higher up the list of contenders for this year’s Ryder Cup.
Knox simply wishes he had Sullivan’s magical putting touch after watching the Nuneaton man hole just about everything for two days while, in comparison, he was tortured on some of the purest greens in the game.
“I’ve got zero confidence with my putter,” groaned the Scottish No 1 after requiring 32 putts in a second-round 73 to sit on one-under, nine off the lead and not where he was wanting to be in his bid to complete an HSBC double after winning that same sponsor’s WGC event in November.
“In contrast, Andy holed everything today and I wish he would give me a putting lesson. I’ll go away and work on it and, hopefully, I’ll wake up like Andy Sullivan in the morning.”
Knox and Sullivan had Darren Clarke, the Ryder Cup captain, for company on the opening two days. One was probably treading carefully as he played with the Ulsterman for the first time; the other poked fun at him at every opportunity. “He [Sullivan] has completely taken the p*** out of me for two days,” said Clarke, smiling. “I told him, ‘if you keep this up, a pick is out of the question’. No, he was in great form. He has such an easy way of going about things and is a fantastic player.”
Having backed up his three victories last season by being on Clarke’s side that won the EurAsia Cup so convincingly in Malaysia last weekend, Sullivan is a strong contender to be among the Ryder Cup rookies at Hazeltine in September.
“Everything,” replied Clarke to being asked what the 2011 Scottish Open Stroke-Play champion does so well. “He drives the ball beautifully, shapes his iron shots both ways and putts great. His temperament is really nice as well. He loses it a little bit but, mentally, he gets himself back into shape very quickly.”
Knox was disappointed to drop two shots in the last three holes but Clarke felt the Scot had “played nicely” and sympathised with him over his problems in reading the greens. “The exact same thing has happened to me here,” he said. “If you start lipping out, you can suddenly do an awful lot of it. He had lots of chances, but he just couldn’t make anything and gain momentum.”