The performance Russell Knox delivers at the start of the FedEx Cup Play-Offs may help secure a Ryder Cup red-letter day, but the Scot’s season will surely be defined by his position at the end of the PGA Tour’s four-event series rather than whether or not he earns one of Darren Clarke’s wild cards.
Yes, of course, it would be a fantastic achievement for the 31-year-old Invernesian to be part of that European team at Hazeltine next month and, having climbed into the world’s top 20 on the back of two eye-catching wins over the past ten months, he may well have done enough already to be among the three selections Clarke will announce at Wentworth on Tuesday.
Once the dust settles later in the year, though, what could be more impressive than becoming a Ryder Cupper is where Knox finishes in the FedEx Cup, having set up the opportunity to do something very special heading into a series that starts today with the Barclays Championship at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, just outside New York.
Seriously, it is one of the outstanding performances by any sporting Scot this year that Knox currently sits fourth in the standings, the quality of his overall play so far this year on the world’s top circuit being illustrated by the fact the players above him are world No 1 Jason Day, second-ranked Dustin Johnson and former Masters champion Adam Scott. “I’m looking forward to it very much,” Knox, who, with groups being determined by FedEx Cup rankings, has Jordan Spieth and Brandt Snedeker for company in the opening round, admitted of his third straight crack at the end-of-season Play-Offs, having finished 40th in 2014 before climbing six spots 12 months ago. “Obviously it’s been the best year of my career so far and I’m very fortunate to be No 4 heading into the Barclays. Anything from here would be a cherry on top of the cake, so I’m looking forward to giving it my all. I don’t feel pressure on me, so I can just freewheel it.
“Fortunately, I’m already locked up to go all the way [to the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta], but it just makes it even more exciting for me. If I was to play well in one of these next couple of events, the chance of winning the thing increases.”
Not since Colin Montgomerie recorded the last of his eight European Order of Merit triumphs in 2005 has a male Scottish golfer entered the final few weeks of a season in such a lofty position on one of the game’s main Order of Merits. Whether Knox can either improve or sustain his spot remains to be seen, but he certainly seems unfazed by the challenge that lies ahead.
“I don’t think anything’s changed,” he replied to being asked what he felt had allowed him to take his game to another level, his rise up the world rankings having been sparked when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China last November. “I think that’s probably why I’ve improved. I’ve just allowed myself to naturally get better.
“I think a lot of times out here, people try and force to improve too quickly, and maybe try a new coach, a new this, new that, and they are always searching for something different, and a lot of times, I think that makes people worse. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve just allowed myself to naturally improve, and I think that’s one of the main reasons why I’ve had a great year. I just haven’t tried to change anything. I don’t have a swing coach. I swing however I want. I think that helps me trust my swing when I really need to.”
It surely can’t have escaped Clarke’s attention that Knox has the sort of attitude that looks as though it would make him an asset in a Ryder Cup. “It’s important but it’s not the end of the world,” he said of that. “If he chooses not to pick me, I’m not going to sulk in the corner. He has every right not to pick me. He has every right to pick me. He can choose whoever he wants and I’ll be okay with it.”