Russell Knox hopes Irish Open title defence can kick-start form

Russell Knox with the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open trophy. Pic by INPHO.
Russell Knox with the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open trophy. Pic by INPHO.
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It might be asking too much to replicate last year’s pyrotechnics, but Irish Open champion Russell Knox admits he is still awaiting the “fireworks” which will ignite his season.

Knox won the title at Ballyliffin 12 months ago in amazing fashion, holing from 40 feet on the 72nd hole to force a play-off with Ryan Fox and then repeating the feat from an almost identical position when the players returned to the 18th for the first extra hole.

The victory briefly lifted Knox back into the world’s top 50 but the 34-year-old arrives in Lahinch ranked 72nd after a steady season to date, which has yielded two top 10s and two missed cuts in 16 events.

“It’s been kind of a strange year,” the Florida-based Scot said. “There have been no major fireworks I guess would be the way to put it.

“Every aspect of my game feels very good. I’ve been driving it well and I’ve been putting great for the last month or two. There’s been no really glaring weakness. I just need to try to put it all together for four days.

“I’m happy about not having missed very many cuts but I have to turn those into (good) finishes somehow. Finishing in the top 20 or 30 just means that I’ve had one kind of bad day or just not quite being clicking on all cylinders.

“But I’ve been fortunate in my career in the last 10 years or so that every year I’ve gotten on a little roll and obviously we all know it can happen at any time. So let’s hope it starts right here.”

Knox admits Lahinch has one or two “funky” holes which will test the patience of the players, with the fourth featuring a blind shot to the green and the fifth being a completely blind par three.

“Four is probably the smallest fairway I’ve ever seen out of any hole anywhere in the world, but it does all kick in from the hills,” Knox added. “But you then hit over a mound to a hole where there’s out of bounds right behind the green.

“It’s a cool hole. Back in the day you wouldn’t even go up to the top of the hill when you were a junior. Just hit it over the (marker) rock and get on with it, so it’s all about your attitude and just how you go into it.

“The same with the fifth hole, the par three. It’s a great little hole. Are some people going to get extremely unlucky and make a mess of it? Absolutely. But if you get a nice bounce off the hill you might make it.”