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Russell Knox gaining confidence

May 25, 2016

Russell Knox needed results before he could find confidence, and now his confidence is soaring.

Just over six months ago, Knox got in as an alternate for his first World Golf Championship, scrambled to secure a Chinese visa and wound up winning the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He has become more visible since then, only partly because of his steady play.

Knox had a one-shot lead with three holes to play in the Irish Open until Rory McIlroy hit two shots with a fairway metal that will be talked about in Ireland for years - onto the 16th green for a two-putt birdie (and a two-shot swing for the lead) and to 3 feet on the 18th hole for eagle.

''I got beat by two of the best shots I've ever seen in my life,'' Knox said Monday night from England, where he playing the BMW PGA Championship.

It was his third runner-up finish since Shanghai - he went straight from China to Mexico and lost in a playoff to Graeme McDowell - and it moved Knox to a career-best No. 23 in the world. And he wasn't the least bit surprised.

''I've always had to prove to myself I can do it before I really feel like I can do it,'' Knox said. ''It's been like that at all levels. After coming close a few times, then winning in Shanghai, all of a sudden I proved to myself I can do it, and I should be able to do it again. I've just kind of run with that.''

His game is efficient rather than dazzling, though it's hard to beat the results.

Since missing the cut in his Masters debut, Knox has a pair of runner-up finishes and a performance at The Players Championship that brought him just as much attention for how he handled misfortune with humor and honesty. He was contending at the TPC Sawgrass when his tee shot on the island-green 17th came up a yard short. Rattled, he shanked the next one, and then put a third in the water. He made a 9 and tumbled out of sight.

He called it an ''epic fail.'' He said he would be ''terrified'' hitting that shot the next day (he hit the green and three-putted for his only bogey in a final round of 66). And he earned plenty of fans by going on Twitter to say, ''SHANK you very much for all the nice messages.''

Knox, who has lived in Florida since playing college golf at Jacksonville University, took up European Tour membership after winning the HSBC. He was asked about the Ryder Cup that week, and it felt like a long shot. He did not get Ryder Cup points for the WGC victory because he was not yet a member.

But he faces a big stretch now - Wentworth, the Memorial, U.S. Open, Bridgestone Invitational, Scottish Open, British Open over the next eight weeks, all of them with plenty of Ryder Cup world points on offer.

''After Shanghai when I joined, I would have given me like a 25 percent chance making the team,'' he said. ''One win is not going to get you on the Ryder Cup team. I think right now, to be honest, I'd be shocked if I didn't make the team. I feel pretty good about that. But at the same time, if I don't play well from now until selection day, I don't deserve to make the team.

''It's not what I've done in the last five or six months,'' he said. ''It's what I do now.''

And if this surge continues, the Olympics is not out of question. Knox is No. 3 in the Olympic ranking for the UK, though he most likely would have to get into the top 15 to earn a trip to Rio.





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