Russell Knox Talks About Those Putts at Last Year’s Irish Open

Lightning struck twice for Russell Knox at last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. He sank a birdie putt of about 40 feet on the final hole of regulation to get into a playoff at Ballyliffin Golf Club and rolled home another from nearly the same spot to dispatch Ryan Fox.

It was the fourth career victory for the Scottish-born son of an American father and Scottish mother, but first on his native continent. He came to the United States to play college golf at Jacksonville University and has called Florida home since, first earning PGA Tour membership in 2012.

Knox, 34, took time last month at the Memorial Tournament to reflect on last year’s victory, his Ryder Cup hopes and taking the American path to a pro career. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

Those two putts on 18, the one to get into the playoff and then the one to win: Are those the most significant back-to-back putts of your career?

I don’t know if anyone’s ever done that before. So yeah, it was definitely for my career. I holed a 12-foot putt to win in Hartford, so this was even longer. Yeah, it was pretty amazing it happened.

That win got you into the Ryder Cup conversation, and for the second time in a row you were not chosen. How frustrating is it to be in that mix and then get the phone call that you weren’t selected?

It was more frustrating in 2016, because everybody knows I played good enough to be on the team. Last year, I wouldn’t have picked myself. I was close, but there were a couple of other guys I felt deserved it more than I did.

It was nice to be up there, but I needed one more big performance. It just didn’t come. It just kind of fueled the fire to hopefully qualify next time.

Does it change the way you approach the Ryder Cup qualification/selection system?

Not for me. If I play good, I can make it. If I don’t play good, I’m not. I’m not going to go out of my way to play more in Europe. I’ll have plenty of opportunities, and if I play good, I’ll be there. If I don’t, I don’t deserve to.

You started your professional career on the minitours and worked your way up. A lot of European-born collegians go back to Europe. Why didn’t you choose that path?

I feel Scottish — I was born there — but I’ll live in the United States the rest of my life. I don’t want to live [in Scotland]. I love it, but I’m happy in the U.S. I’ve married an American woman, and I’ll live here the rest of my life.

You got your big break in 2011, qualifying for a Tour event in California and placing second there. How significant was that boost?

It might have been the most important thing to happen to me. I went on to finish second that week and about a month later I won on the, and that got me on the PGA Tour. That was a big moment in my life. Everyone that’s been out here and played minitours, they’ve had that moment. That was just mine.

What was it that brought you to Jacksonville University in the first place?

I went on a visit and liked the coach, Mike Flemming. I was fascinated with life in Florida and Jacksonville. I probably would have gone anywhere I would have gone on a visit, to be honest.

Flemming not only was your first college coach, but you brought him back later to coach you professionally until he died in 2014. What made the relationship click so well?

I certainly wish he was still alive because we had a great run. He was one of the best, most funny storytellers I ever heard. Definitely a person I’ll remember forever. To this day, I probably had my best stuff when he was around. It’d be nice if I could have one more lesson from him.

You said after he died that you weren’t going to look for another coach, that it was “not even worth” making the attempt. Is that still the case?

No, but it lasted awhile. Then last year I was kind of fighting my swing a little bit. I found Bradley Hughes, whom I like a lot. We’ve been working since the end of last year. It’s been good. It’s a very different interaction than with Mike, but equally good. Hopefully, Bradley will be the guy to take my game to the next level.

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