Russell Knox eyes Open glory after reigning supreme in Ireland
The Scot overcame Ryan Fox in a play-off at Ballyliffin.
Russell Knox set his sights on Open Championship glory and Ryder Cup redemption after defeating Ryan Fox in a play-off to win the £5.3million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in truly extraordinary fashion.
Knox holed from 40 feet for birdie across the 18th green in regulation to join Fox at the top of the leaderboard, the New Zealander then missing from eight feet for a birdie of his own to win the title.
And when the players returned to the 18th for a sudden-death play-off the situation was remarkably repeated, Knox holing from an almost identical place for birdie before Fox saw his attempt catch the edge of the hole and spin out.
“It’s tough to describe how amazing this feels,” Knox said after a closing 66. “Unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m holding this (trophy). After I made eagle on the fourth I knew I was in it. The putts have been going in the last couple of weeks, I had a great feeling on the greens and I just kept going.”
Speaking about the two putts on the 18th, Knox added: “It’s why I play golf, all the practice, all the misses, all the bad moments are taken care of with putts like that.
“Making two of them from an almost identical position is obviously a bit of a bonus. I’m so happy. I said to my caddie (on the play-off hole) we’ve already made this putt, it can’t be too difficult. I feel bad for Ryan but I guess it was my time.”
Knox was controversially overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild card in 2016 despite being ranked 20th in the world at the time, higher than seven members of the European team who would go on to lose at Hazeltine.
That winning feeling ✊ pic.twitter.com/VhlC8sxmsQ— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 8, 2018
And he hinted that he would have to qualify automatically to secure a place on Thomas Bjorn’s team for this year’s contest at Le Golf National in Paris.
“To make that team, obviously you have to win tournaments,” added Knox, who climbs to eighth in the qualifying race and back inside the world’s top 50.
“This is a great start but this is not good enough. I need to hammer down and I’m going to have to make that team in order to go to France.
“Right now I’m enjoying winning this trophy and if I struggle the next two weeks I’m still going to enjoy this moment. I’m not being greedy right now but you never know.
“I would love to win the Scottish Open as well and for me to be playing in the Open at Carnoustie, one of the best courses in the world, I’m very happy. Might as well go try and win there.”
For the win? NO.— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 8, 2018
Fox and Knox looking set for two-man play-off. pic.twitter.com/ASYpuU6gDA
Fox, who had the consolation of booking his place in the Open for the second year running in this event, said: “It’s a bloody nice consolation. I hit two great putts on 18 and one grazed the edge and one came back at me so I’m happy.
“I hit the shots I wanted to down the stretch, felt comfortable out there and it was close. Had one putt been an inch either way I’d still be out there now or even with the trophy in my hand but well done to Russell, he played some great golf.”
Spain’s Jorge Campillo finished a shot outside the play-off after a brilliant final round of 65, with defending champion Jon Rahm another stroke back following a remarkable 66 which included a triple-bogey seven on the second and five birdies in the last six holes.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen began the day with a four-shot lead but struggled to a 74 to finish alongside Rahm on 12 under. Andy Sullivan and Zander Lombard joined Fox in claiming an Open qualifying spot after finishing in a tie for sixth.