Russell Knox repeats birdie heroics in play-off to win Irish Open

Russell Knox celebrates as his 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th green finds the hole during the sudden-death play-off to win him the Irish Open title. Picture: Getty
Russell Knox celebrates as his 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th green finds the hole during the sudden-death play-off to win him the Irish Open title. Picture: Getty
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Scotland’s Russell Knox defeated Ryan Fox in a play-off to win the £5.3 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in amazing fashion at Ballyliffin.

Knox holed from 40 feet for birdie across the 18th green in regulation to join Fox on 14 under par, the New Zealander then missing from eight feet for a birdie of his own to win the title.

And when the players returned to the 18th for a sudden-death play-off the situation was repeated, Knox holing from almost exactly the same place for birdie before Fox saw his attempt from close range catch the edge of the hole and spin out.

“It’s tough to describe how amazing this feels,” Knox said at the presentation ceremony. “Unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m holding this [trophy].

“After I made eagle on the fourth I knew I was in it. The putts have been going in the last couple of weeks, I had a great feeling on the greens and I just kept going.”

Speaking about the two putts on the 18th, Knox added: “It’s why I play golf, all the practice, all the misses, all the bad moments are taken care of with putts like that.

“Making two of them from an almost identical position is obviously a bit of a bonus. I’m so happy. I said [on the play-off hole] we’ve already made this putt, it can’t be too difficult. I feel bad for Ryan but I guess it was my time.”

Spain’s Jorge Campillo finished a shot outside the play-off after a brilliant final round of 65, with defending champion Jon Rahm another stroke back following a remarkable 66 which included a triple-bogey seven on the second and five birdies in the last six holes.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen began the day with a four-shot lead but struggled to a 74 to finish alongside Rahm on 12 under. Tournament host Rory McIlroy finished two under par overall in a group including David Drysdale, with the Scot matching McIlroy’s closing 71. Scott Jamieson and Richie Ramsay finished at level par, with Marc Warren a further shot adrift.

McIlroy will head into the Open Championship at Carnoustie in ten days’ time in a positive frame of mind after completing his competitive preparations and saw signs of progress with his problematic putting with four birdies in six holes around the turn.

“There were improvements over the weekend,” McIlroy said. “I hit the ball the best I’ve hit it on Thursday and I felt like I sort of kept it up. It maybe wasn’t quite as good the last three days, but I putted a lot better today. I felt a lot better about it so that was great.

“Sometimes when I get too square with my feet, my upper body can get a little bit left and every putt I was missing was to the left. The more I can be just a little bit open with my lower body, I can see it a little bit better. I’m right-eye dominant, as well. It’s easier to see it down the line if I’m a little more open.

“I feel like I’ve made some improvements over the last couple of days on that and at least I know I’m trending in the right direction heading into the Open Championship.”

McIlroy has spent the last four years as tournament host of the Irish Open, during which time it has become part of the lucrative Rolex Series.

From next year that role will be rotated among the top Irish players, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley taking over in 2019 at Lahinch.