Russell Knox secured a fourth Open Championship appearance in a row at Carnoustie in just over a fortnight’s time after finishing with a flourish at Le Golf National to claim a share of second spot behind Alex Noren in the HNA Open de France.
On a day when Noren effectively secured his Ryder Cup debut on the same course later in the year by recording a tenth European Tour triumph, Knox finished a shot behind the Swede in joint second after signing off with a six-under 65.
The brilliant bogey-free effort, which saw him jump 16 spots on a dramatic final day – this course is going to be a cracker for Europe’s clash with the United States in September – earned the 33-year-old a cheque for around £400,000 in the Rolex Series event and lifted him to 25th in this season’s Race to Dubai.
Equally pleasing for Knox was getting his hands on one of three spots up for grabs in the season’s third major, with American Julian Suri and Swede Marcus Kinhult joining the Scot in heading to Carnoustie through the The Open Championship Qualifying Series.
“This was one of the huge goals coming over here, to try and play my way in [to The Open],” admitted Knox. “I’m thrilled. Obviously, you don’t want to miss an Open Championship in Scotland being a Scot, so job done.
“I’ve only played Carnoustie a couple of times, a long time ago. To be honest, I don’t know much about it other than it is extremely difficult. Obviously, I have watched previous Open Championships there and know the history, Paul Lawrie winning which was cool. I can’t wait, it’s going to be fun.”
Knox, who is also playing in both the upcoming Irish and Scottish Opens at Ballyliffin and Gullane respectively, made his last-day score with a burst of four consecutive birdies around the turn, having earlier picked up a shot at the fifth. He made his sixth gain of the round at the par-5 14th before negotiating the treacherous closing four holes without any spillage to post the clubhouse target.
In his post-round interview, Knox reckoned he probably needed to have got to seven-under – one lower – to give himself a chance of perhaps getting into a play-off and he was spot on. As a host of players, including Suri with a double-bogey 6 when he stood on eight-under, came to grief at the last, only Noren managed to get ahead of the Invernesian and he only did so thanks to birdies at the 16th and 17th.
It was the second time that Noren, the 2016 Scottish Open champion, had overturned a seven-shot lead in a Rolex Series event, having also done so when he won last year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. This impressive last-day display saw him pip Knox, Suri and Chris Wood, with Kinult finishing a shot further back in joint fifth along with Jon Rahm and Matthew Southgate.
“It feels amazing,” said Noren after closing with a 67. “I’ve been close this year in America and then two shots off Francesco’s [Molinari] win at Wentworth. When you’re out there, you really want this win, and it felt unbelievable to get it today. It’s what I was putting and practising for, maybe a play-off, it was unreal how it went and I didn’t expect that.”
On the Ryder Cup, he added: “If I would be on the team, it would mean a lot. The last three years here, I’ve had good results. I think all of us golfers work that way, we like places that we have played well on before.”