Russell Knox is hoping some Turkish delight can get him back on track after what he describes as a “pathetic” performance in China last week as he bids to become the first Scot in seven years to finish in the top ten in the Race to Dubai.
Paul Lawrie, helped by two wins, was the last to achieve this feat when he claimed tenth spot behind Rory McIlroy on the money-list in 2012, although Stephen Gallacher came close with a creditable 16th place in 2014.
Knox had occupied a top-ten spot since being joint-second in the French Open then winning the Irish Open in successive weeks in the summer, before slipping to 12th after finishing 68th last weekend in the WGC-HSBC Champions, the title he claimed three years ago in China.
The 33-year-old is looking to flush that disappointing effort out of his system when he makes his debut in this week’s $7 million Turkish Airlines Open at Regnum Carya in Belek before aiming for another big pay-day in the $8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in a fortnight’s time.
“Historically, I’ve started the wraparound season on the PGA Tour strongly, but this year, with my position in the Race to Dubai, I thought that I need to hammer down here and see if I can finish as high as I can and I am looking forward to trying to do that,” said Knox, who trails the leader, Open champion Francesco Molinari, by a whopping £2,608,742 but is only £163,837 behind tenth-placed Justin Rose. “There’s a little cash bonus for finishing in the top ten, which is always nice. I also think that top 20 gets you into the WGC in Mexico and top 30 gets you into the Open, so those are obviously goals. The main goal is to finish top three. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to win it. I think I would probably have to win twice, but that’s why I’m here.
“Last week in China I played pathetic, which was humbling. You never want to play bad, but sometimes you need that. Everything was dreadful, to be honest. Having said that, I feel my game is close. It always is. I still think my best golf is better than it has ever been. Unfortunately, the bad stuff is worse than it has ever been. I’m making enough birdies but I’m throwing in too many bogeys and others. But I feel like any week I will clean that up and off I go.”
The Inverness golfer, who has fellow Scot Gallacher for company in Turkey, added: “I was disappointed with my final standing [89th] in the FedEx Cup last season. That wasn’t all that good, but I don’t feel that really relates to how well I played as I had that great summer here on the European Tour.
“It would be amazing to get another Rolex Series win, but more than anything I would just love to contend over my next two events before the World Cup and to be able to get into the mix again and see what happens, and finish the year off on a strong note. Winning makes an average season great. I just received my trophy not so long ago for winning the Travelers Championship [on the PGA Tour in 2016] and it’s a joy when you open up a box to see a trophy with your name on it as it makes you really appreciate what you have done.”
After the event in Dubai, the Florida-based Knox is heading to Australia to join forces with Martin Laird in the aforementioned World Cup in Melbourne. Two years ago, Knox controversially picked Duncan Stewart, a long-time friend, as his partner but, on this occasion, he has gone for the next-best player on the world rankings. “After we played so well at the Zurich Classic [a team event on the PGA Tour earlier this year], and in the same format, it would be nice to see if we can fill our pockets before Santa Claus comes down the chimney,” smiled Knox.
Gallacher, who enjoyed a consistent run of form at the end of the regular season, withdrew from the pro-am after suffering from dizziness in a reaction to tablets he is taking but is hoping to have recovered in time to take his place in a field that includes two of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes in Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood.
Rose will reclaim the world No 1 spot from Brooks Koepka if he can make a successful title defence here while Fleetwood, last year’s European No 1, is looking to close the gap on Molinari in the Race to Dubai, but has more than 1,000,000 points to make up.