Russell Knox gets timely US Open confidence boost
Russell Knox is hoping his '¨season has been kickstarted by a timely confidence boost heading into this week's '¨US Open at Erin Hills, where he is flying the Saltire along with Martin Laird and Richie Ramsay.
In his last competitive outing before heading to Wisconsin for the season’s second major, the Scottish No 1 carded a three-under-par 67 to finish in the top 40 behind back-to-back winner Daniel Berger in the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis on Sunday.
Compared to some of the excellent performances Knox has produced on the PGA Tour over the past couple of years, notably two wins on the US circuit, including, of course, a World Golf Championship, that may not look anything to get excited about.
However, having added that event to his schedule at the last minute in a bid to try and find something after suffering a dip in form over the past couple of months, it was mission accomplished for the 31-year-old.
“I decided late to play in Memphis and all I needed was that little thing to grab on to, and that little bit of a confidence lift and away I go. Then it will be game on again,” he said. “Clearly, I have not had the results I wanted leading into this US Open but last week at the Memorial I made 16 birdies.”
Knox started the 2017 wraparound season with two top 10s and was still in good form at the start of the calendar year before losing his way in the build up to The Masters. “Heading into 2017, I was thinking, ‘here we go, bring it on’,” he added. “But then this little stretch I have been on of late [missing six cuts in 11 events, including The Masters and the Players’ Championship]has not been all that good. I know I can beat anyone, though, and for me it is all about confidence and self belief. My confidence took a little knock and I just have to get it back.”
Knox, who has slipped to 39th in the world after ending last year sitting 18th, is playing in his third US Open. He tied for 45th on his debut at Merion in 2013 before carding scores of 70-71-73-73 to end up in a share of 23rd spot behind Dustin Johnson at Oakmont 12 months ago.
“A US Open is good for me as I drive the ball straight, so if I get a good week where I am keeping the ball in play, then I would say this event is my best chance at a major.” he said. “I still think I am going to do well at Augusta – I feel sure of that – but I’ve made the cut in two US Opens.
“It tests every club in your bag and hopefully, as Adam Scott came out and said last week, the USGA will get the set-up of the golf course right and not make it too difficult. It is already a big golf course [at 7,700 yards] so, hopefully, they will not try to trick it up.”
Knox, who has been drawn in the same group as Laird in the opening two rounds, isn’t the type to go into his shell. In fact, he’s always a chirpy character. At the same time, though, he’s keen for golf to be once again be the main reason for having a smile on his face.
“I know it’s not the end of the world but, at the same time, I don’t want to under achieve like I have been of late,” he said. “Unfortunately, the US Open is never a level playing field but, in saying that, you are not going to get a surprise winner. “Would I be a surprise winner? Absolutely. I have beaten everyone in this field before, though, including going down the stretch in Shanghai with Dustin Johnson. So, there is no one competing this week that I feel intimidates me. From that standpoint, there is no concern, All I need a little sniff and, as I said, away I will go.”