Knox among winners, and he knows Laettner

By Doug FergusonJanuary 7, 2016, 4:10 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Russell Knox knows he is in good company at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions because only PGA Tour winners are at Kapalua.

That wasn't always the case, though Knox can be forgiven.

Years ago, when the 30-year-old Scot was still grinding in golf's minor leagues, a friend who looked after Fred Funk's home in Florida invited Knox over for a few beers and to watch a fight on pay-per-view. Funk's house had everything, including a pingpong table, and Knox was playing when another guest arrived.

''All of a sudden, this gorilla of a man walks in,'' Knox said. ''He says, 'Oh, you're good at pingpong.' That was it. He didn't even say hello. He said, 'I'm Christian Laettner,' and I thought, 'Who the hell is that?' I thought he must be a basketball player because he was 7-foot tall, but I didn't know who he was.''

One game led to 20. A few minutes turned into a few hours. The Duke great and NBA All-Star got the best of Knox, but not by much. As he left that night, Knox took one last look at his environment and told his friend, ''Man, I can't believe I'm in Fred Funk's house. This is so cool.''

''He said, 'Well, the guy you just played pingpong with for the last four hours is called Christian Laettner, and he's probably a bigger deal than Fred Funk,''' Knox said. ''So then I went home and Googled him. Oh, man, he was on the Dream Team.''


Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Articles, photos and videos


Knox still isn't in that league yet, though he took a giant step just by making it to Kapalua.

That 12-hour flight from Florida to paradise was nothing like his journey from a middling amateur in Scotland to a small college (Jacksonville University) to working in the cart barn to save cash for the mini-tours and eventually a card on the PGA Tour.

And now he is part of a winners-only field alongside Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson.

Knox started his PGA Tour career in 2010 at No. 963 in the world.

Now he's No. 30.

''I always hoped I would be a top-50 player. At every level of golf, I've always thought I could do it, but I needed to prove it to myself before I really felt I could do it. Before you always hoped you could,'' he said. ''I've still got to play incredible to do well, but at least I know I can stand on a tee and say, 'I've won a tournament before, and it was a big one.'''

All he did was become the first player since the inception of the World Golf Championships to win in his debut, beating a field that included Spieth, Johnson, Rory McIlroy and a host of others who have known they were good all their lives.

Knox was selected to play for Scotland in an amateur event in Spain during his junior year in college. It opened his eyes to the standard of golf around the world, and he knew it wouldn't include him if he didn't work harder.

''I can't believe out of all the Scottish guys on that team, I've done the best,'' he said. ''Because I was the worst by a mile.''

He still rates a Hooters Tour event in Mississippi as highly as a World Golf Championship. He had a one-shot lead in the 18th fairway when he hit 6-iron into the water and lost by one. He was distraught driving back to Jacksonville. One year later, with a one-shot lead on the 18th hole in the same tournament, in nearly the identical spot in the fairway, he hit 6-iron onto the green and won his first event as a pro.

He received $33,500 for that victory at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club.

''I bought myself a car – a Toyota Highlander,'' he said. ''And it was pretty much the whole check.''

Knox won $1.4 million for his victory in China, and he won $545,600 for a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell a week later in Mexico. He is going to the Masters for the first time in April, and if he plays reasonable well this year will get into the other majors and WGCs.

He also has joined the European Tour with hopes of making the Ryder Cup team.

Knox already has played the Nedbank Challenge. He will play Abu Dhabi, the Irish Open, Wentworth and the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, close to where he grew up in Inverness. He looks forward to that nearly as much as the Masters. It will be a great feeling for the local kid who left home and made good.

He's a PGA Tour winner. He's in the top 50 in the world.

And he knows who Christian Laettner is.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.