Russell Knox sees confidence soar and then crash on No. 13 at the Sony Open
Russell Knox has just put the screws to a driver at the 495-yard par-4 13th with the tradewinds providing a little help on this dog-leg right.
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Russell Knox has just put the screws to a driver at the 495-yard par-4 13th with the tradewinds providing a little help on this dog-leg right. With his landing spot next to a bunker guarding the fairway on the right side, many a wayward shot has landed on that beach.
But not Knox. Not on this blustery Saturday afternoon at the Sony Open in Hawaii at a hole that is playing very difficult due to the conditions. He planted it tight left of that bunker on a patch of fairway wide enough to be a welcome mat at his parents’ front door. It was 278 yards from the tee box. Another 210 yards to the green.
His second shot is even more impressive than his first, landing about 6 feet from the pin for the kind of birdie opportunity as rare as a dodo bird sighting. Seeing that no one has spotted a dodo since 1662, that gives you an idea of why Knox could barely contain his excitement. He decided to share it with a couple of guys he obviously knew who were walking just outside the ropes as he neared the 13th green. One asked him, “Was that a 3-iron?”
A bit bemused, Knox replied, “Three-iron? I haven’t hit a 3-iron since I don’t know when.” He’s about to break off the conversation and return to his 100-yard walk to the green when the young man asks, “Some kind of hybrid?” Knox said with a touch of confidence in his voice, “That would be 4-iron.”
Playing with Keegan Bradley and past Sony Open winner Ryan Palmer, he waited for everyone to complete their short games of chip and putt with his own ball mark in close. This was for birdie at No. 13. This was the kind of putt needed to break out of this even-par trap and maybe make a run to the clubhouse.
Golf analyst and six-time major winner Nick Faldo likes to talk about how it isn’t enough to hit it in tight. You have to reward yourself for those two great shots by making the putt. Knox doesn’t. He absent-mindedly backhands the final 18 inches in for par, that confidence he had out in the fairway replaced with a faraway stare at some spot in Hawaii Kai.
He birdies the two closing holes on each side and bogeys the second hole on each nine to produce a symmetric 70. Even par. Finishes the way he began at 5 under, good enough for a tie for 11th some seven shots off the lead of Brendan Steele. He is trying to keep his PGA Tour status gained with a win at Safeway in 2017. Knox, who won twice at the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions and the 2016 Travelers Championship, probably isn’t going to win No. 3 today.
But it’s all about the process of returning to those days when confidence goes with you from tee to green. You don’t hit two incredible shots to get it within 6 feet, only to let those final 72 inches keep you from carding a 3 instead of a 4. It’s only a stroke, but it’s also a symptom of something small and difficult to fix. It’s life on the PGA Tour, where one hole out of 72 could end up costing you thousands.