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.''

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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.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1