Russell Knox hit more greens in regulation and a similar amount of fairways than one of his playing partners, Rickie Fowler, in the opening two rounds of the 81st Masters. Despite that, the Scot was back in Jacksonville, where he lives, as the American headed out on the third day at Augusta National as one of four co-leaders, writes Martin Dempster.
They say, of course, this game is all about driving for show but putting for dough. That has certainly been the case for Knox as far as his two appearances in this event have been concerned. Whereas Fowler’s putting average for 36 holes was 1.44, bettered by only William McGirt, the same statistic for Knox was 1.81. Just a handful were higher over the first two days.
“He makes a lot more putts than I do,” confessed Knox of the 2015 Scottish Open champion. “Don’t get me wrong, he was hitting the ball nicely. In the second round, in fact, his ball-striking was unbelievable. He wasn’t in trouble much and, when he was, he has a phenomenal short game. He made a lot of really nice putts.”
For the record, Knox hit 23 greens – three more than Fowler – and 18 fairways. He was happy about his game from tee to green. It was the same story last year. On both occasions, however, he’s paid the price for poor putting. “It was just horrific,” groaned the Scottish No. 1. “My putter let me down again.”
Knox left early this time around – he missed out for the second year running by two shots after a brace of 76s – with one consolation. The 31-year-old produced the sort of strong finish, covering the last four holes in three-under and almost holing a 6-iron with his approach at the last, that he’ll hope he can pull off again one day in contention.
His first target will be to ensure he’s back again in 12 months’ time. Staying inside the world’s top 50 between now and the end of the year will secure one of those coveted invitations again. He’ll keep hammering away in his bid to join Sandy Lyle on the roll of honour here.
“Sure hope I do,” said Knox in reply to being asked if could imagine teeing it up in this event as often as Lyle, who has now played 36 times. “It’s great that a Scotsman was able to win here and hopefully I can make it to the weekend first then contend.”
He used “bummed” and “disappointed” to describe this missed cut, having made more early exits in just over two months than he did in the whole of last season. He knows now, though, about those slender margins people talk about when it comes to this particular event.
“There was so many shots that I was a couple of yards out from being good,” said Knox. “Flying the green at three, for instance, in the second round. The same at both 9 and 14, where I came up a yard shot each time. They all cost me shots whereas if they’d been a couple of yards more I might have made birdie. There’s the difference between missing the cut and being in the tournament.”
Next up for the Invernesian is the RBC Heritage, which starts at Hilton Head, where it will be a case of deja vu. “It is probably my favourite tournament of the year, to be honest,” he declared. “Last year, I was devastated missing the cut here but I then went there and finished second. That was a huge kickstart to the rest of my year. So, let’s do that again. It’s certainly a course that suits my game.”