He may have suffered a double dose of Ryder Cup disappointment already since bursting on to the scene as the first Scot to win a World Golf Championship, but Russell Knox has not thrown in the towel in his bid to join a long list of compatriots to play in the biennial event. Far from it, in fact. “I’m thinking about the Ryder Cup already,” declared the 34-year-old, even though the 2020 contest at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin is still 444 days away.
In some respects, that admission came as a bit of a shock. He’d have been forgiven, after all, if the event was now off his radar altogether after being in the mix for a wildcard pick in both 2016 and 2018 only to be overlooked by Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn for the matches at Hazeltine and Le Golf National respectively. Watching the latter, in particular, though from afar, has made him more determined than ever to tick it off his “to do list”.
“It’s totally changed for me,” added Knox, speaking in his press conference for this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, where he is set to spearhead a 15-strong home challenge in the $7 million Rolex Series event. “I’ve had enough of not making that team. When my caddie and I, David Clark, sat down on 1 January, his No 1 goal and my No 1 goal is to make the Ryder Cup Team. Since then, I think about it every day.
“I’m going to do everything I can not to miss that team when it comes around. Everything that I kind of do, that’s the end goal. There’s going to be plenty of baby steps along the way to make that team, but it just comes down to it’s as simple as if I play good, I’ll be right there, and if I don’t, I’ve got no chance.”
After missing out in 2016, Knox spoke about how he felt something of an “outsider” on the European Tour, having carved out his professional career in the US after staying on there after he finished a spell at college in Jacksonville. He’s played a bit more on this side of the Atlantic since then, making a few more friends over here in the process, but claims nothing has changed as far as the Ryder Cup is concerned.
“I’m always going to be an outsider. Nothing is ever going to change. I don’t honestly see ever getting picked,” he said. “I’m a US citizen. My dad, Mike, is a US citizen. My whole family live over there. At the same time, I feel like I am obviously Scottish. I grew up here. I was born here. Lived here until I was 18. I know I’m going to have to earn my way on the team, as is everyone else.
“I don’t expect to be picked, maybe because of that (his citizenship). I would say in the last year or so, I’ve become a little friendlier with a few people on the team, which obviously is helpful. But at the same time, if you play good, you’re going to be on the team even if you’re best friends with everyone or you’re not. That is something I would look forward to: being around a few of the guys a little bit more, developing friendships, so when the time comes, it’s more of an obvious shift hopefully.”
The battle for spots on Padraig Harrington’s team will start with the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in September and finish with the same event next year. Nine automatic spots are up for grabs after the Irishman decided to cut his wildcard selections from four to three.
“I’ve been very close the last two times and, if I see myself as being in the top 12 players in Europe, I have to have the mindset of to put myself there,” Knox said. “It’s more of a mental thing. But I’ve got to play my way into the top 50 in the world again. I have to be in the major championships, the big WGC events. I’ve got to play good at venues like Wentworth and the Players Championship and these Rolex Series Events. The big ones, they are the ones that count.
“I feel like I owe it to myself. I don’t deserve, that’s the wrong way to put it. But, because I’ve been close and because I’ve had some nice years now playing. If my career ended without a Ryder Cup, I would regret it. I guess regret is not the right term because I’m trying my hardest every time. I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t able to do it.
“I know the player that I can be. I know I can improve from where I am now. It’s something which is going to mean a lot to me. Just watching it on TV, not being there, I mean, you want to be there. It looks really cool. I’d love to see how I would handle the pressure of it. Of course, there’s other fish to fry, too. Every tournament we play is massive and obviously this one is one that I would like to win right up there with the majors. Your home open is your home open.”