If you believe in fate, then plonk a few quid on Russell Knox at Augusta National. He’d just said “you never know” when talking about his chances this week, after all, when someone walking past on the way into the clubhouse grill room heard him and muttered, “you never know, you just never know”.
The person in question was none other than Jordan Spieth and he does indeed know, of course, especially when it comes to this event. The Texan claimed a Green Jacket on just his second appearance in the season’s opening major and now Knox is trying to do likewise as he flies the Saltire this week along with Sandy Lyle, the 1998 champion.
Knox, pictured, missed the cut here on his debut 12 months ago and has suffered a dip in form over the past couple of months. He doesn’t do downbeat, though. The 31-year-old is here to try and get in the mix, having proved he can come out on top against the big boys when winning the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in 2015.
“You have to beat this guy,” he said of Spieth, smiling about what he’d said in passing. “But I know I’ve got the game. I was happy with the way I played here last year from tee to green. If I had a few putting days like he [Speith] has, I’d have been in contention instead of missing the cut.
“A lot of the holes here fit my eye nicely. If I can drive the ball well, it just comes down to putting and I have worked unbelievably hard on that over the last year. I’ve had some success and I’ve had some setbacks. I’ve just got to keep trying and keep three putts off the card as last year was shocking in that respect. I’m not using the same putter as I did then. In fact, I put it in the bag the week after this event.”
It is just his seventh appearance in a major. His best effort so far has been a share of 22nd in last year’s USPGA Championship. “That is what is tough,” he admitted in reply to being asked about preparing for the game’s most important events. “I haven’t figured it out yet in the majors. Okay, if something amazing were to happen this week, it is life-changing but you can’t almost try and win.
“When I won in China, of course you are trying to win, but you just have to try and relax and enjoy it and play as well as you can. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, which is probably what I did last year with it being my first Masters.
“You just want to feel prepared, but you realise Thursday to Sunday you have to concentrate a lot and this is not an easy course to walk. You are going to use a lot of energy, so wasting energy on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is a mistake.
“It is tough to get that right balance especially as I feel I haven’t played that much golf. I’ve taken a lot of weeks off and when I have played I’ve missed a few cuts. I feel super fresh. So much so that I wanted to be out there all day earlier in the week. But Thursday through Sunday is what matters.”
Twelve months ago, he was a rabbit caught in the headlights. Not this time, though. “It is still amazing to be here, but I am more sure of myself than last year,” declared the Invernesian.