EXCLUSIVE

Russell Knox: 'I'm not playing pro golf to make friends'

Russell Knox

Scotland’s top-ranked golfer Russell Knox says he doesn’t feel he must build friendships in a bid to strengthen his chances of making his Ryder Cup debut next year.

The US-based 32-year-old was, in the view of some, controversially overlooked for a captain’s pick by Darren Clarke in 2016 as Europe fell to a 17-11 defeat at Hazeltine – but would have qualified automatically had he been a European Tour member at the time of his WGC-HSBC Champions win.

Clarke instead opted for European-based trio Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters and with team chemistry one of the key components for a Ryder Cup captain when it comes to the make-up of their team, does it concern Knox that he isn’t very close to many of the European Tour’s household names?

“I’m not playing professional golf to make friends,” the current world No.66 told bunkered.co.uk. “I’m friends with Scott Jamieson and others and when I come over, I do speak to people, but I wouldn’t say I’m super close. That doesn’t hurt my chances of making the team though.

Russell Knox1

“The captain is going to pick the 12 best players and for the guys that qualify automatically, it doesn’t matter who they are.

“I don’t care if I’m not best friends with everyone – I’ll get along with anyone. I’m an easy-going guy and I’d just love to be a part of it. My goal is to play well at the start of the year and seriously have a good run at it. But that comes from me. I’ve got to start well, be in the world top 50 and get into the majors and WGCs – otherwise I’ve got no chance.”

So has captain Thomas Bjorn caught up with Knox yet to talk about the match at Le Golf National? “Not really,” he said. “I’ve just said ‘Hi’ to him a couple of times when I’ve bumped into him. We were going to play at the British Masters but he unfortunately had to pull out so we didn’t get to chat those two days but I’m sure I will.

Russell Knox2

“I hope to play well and that he’ll be in touch but it’s a long way away. A lot can happen. I could be nowhere near qualifying or I could be leading it by a mile. There’s so much that can happen and I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

With the exception of charity events, Knox will next tee it up at the 2018 Sony Open in Hawaii from January 11-14 – unless, in his words, ‘a miracle’ happens in Georgia this weekend where he is playing in the RSM Classic. A win there would see him get into the Tournament of Champions, which takes places a week earlier from January 4-7.

And he hopes that, after a promising top ten showing at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba last week, he can put a winless 2017 behind him and that 2018 will be his best year to date.

“It’s been interesting,” added Knox, who started the year ranked No.18. “Look, I’m not going to say it’s been a total disappointment. Obviously it wasn’t nearly as good as 2016 but I almost knew that was going to come. I didn’t want it to but 2016 was a ridiculous year for me – winning twice in the season and multiple other good performances.

Russell Knox4

“It was tough but in a weird kind of way I’m glad it happened because it makes me get back on the ground a little bit. There are no secrets in golf. Everybody that wins tournaments deserves it and for whatever reason, this year I just didn’t deserve it.

“It wasn’t from a lack of hard work. I just lost a bit of confidence. It’s a funny game. I didn’t putt as well, then I wasn’t hitting the ball as well and from there, it [confidence] can go pretty quickly.

“But my game is extremely close. I’m feeling good for the first time in a while about my putting so I think that’s going to be a nice catalyst to get things going again. I feel like that part of my game is definitely improving and, over the past two or three seasons, that’s been my achilles heel. Now I’m hitting putts like I know I can, it’s game on again and I’m very optimistic that 2018 is going to be my best year.”

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