Russell Knox. https://t.co/cx1COrlUU6— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 14, 2016
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If Will Wilcox lived a golfer’s dream on the island-green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass during the second round of The Players Championship, Russell Knox endured the nightmare just one day later.
Knox had played 52 holes of solid golf on a difficult track, and he strode to the tee at 8 under for the week and still inside the top 10. After he three straight balls in the water, he left with a sextuple-bogey 9.
“I mean, I guess I don’t know what to say,” Knox said. “I mean, that was an epic fail.”
Knox used a pitching wedge for all three shots from 123 yards, and he thought nothing was out of the ordinary with his first tee shot in mid-flight.
“I thought I’d stuffed it,” he said.
Instead, it came up a couple feet short. Knox opted against going to the drop zone. Instead, he re-teed and promptly shanked his second attempt well right of the green.
“I’ve never shanked a pitching wedge off a tee before,” he said. “So that was a first.”
Knox put another ball in the water short of the green before heading to the drop zone, from where he finally found the green before holing “an awesome putt for a 9.”
“It’s just difficult. You’re so nervous. I mean, you’ve got thousands of people laughing at you,” he said. “It’s a very uncomfortable feeling.”
After closing with a bogey on No. 18, Knox signed for an 80 that dropped him into a tie for 40th at 1 under.
Knox, who earned his first PGA Tour win earlier this season at the WGC-HSBC Champions, is a local resident and went to school at nearby Jacksonville University. While he doesn’t play the Stadium Course much these days, he used to play it often in practice – and never, not once, did he hit a shot in the water on No. 17.
It got to the point where, prior to this tournament two years ago, he hit one in the water on purpose just to get it over with.
“That’s the first, second and third time I’ve ever done it,” he said with a grin.
Knox predicted that he will still be “terrified” of the hole during Sunday’s final round, and admitted that the amphitheater of the Tour’s flagship event changed the tone of a hole he had seen so often in practice.
“It’s such an easy shot when you have no nerves or adrenaline. A pro would never miss that. I mean, we know what we’re doing,” he said. “But it’s a different story once you’ve hit two in a row in the water. The green felt like it was the size of a quarter.”