Knox Burst Back Into World’s Top-50 With Stunning Ballyliffin Triumph

Scotland’s Russell Knox has stormed into Ryder Cup selection contention and has also burst back into the world’s top-50 with a stunning play-off victory at the Irish Open.

Knox not once but twice holed two birdie putts each of some 50-feet on the 18th green to win for a first time on European soil.

The Scot first grabbed the 14-under par clubhouse lead with a curling 50-foot biride in a round of 66 before being joined by  big-hitting Kiwi Ryan Fox, who had posted a 68 and Knox then at the first extra hole holed a similar length biride putt, and virtually from the same spot on the 18th to claim the whopping £stg 891,ooo first prize cheque.

The win, and the Inverness-born golfer’s seventh success as a pro, will lift him some 44 spots to the new World No. 43 and victory has seen Knox jump to fifth on the Race to Dubai.

Knox has also leaped 20 places to 8th on the European Ryder Cup ‘World’ points table and just four places shy of qualifying automatically for Thomas Bjorn’s team after being snubbed two years ago for Hazeltine ‘wildcard’ selection.

And Knox heads to this week’s Aberdeen Standards Investments Scottish Open ready to also kick down the Gullane victory door ahead of teeing-up a week later at Carnoustie.

Knox’s success, and only a second Irish win by a Scot since Colin Montgomerie won in 1991, also comes after he posted a stunning 65 a week ago to finish joint runner-up in the French Open.

Victory makes amends somewhat after he was second to Irish Open tournament host, Rory McIlroy in the 2016 event at the K. Club.

And it was McIlroy who presented the gleaming Waterford crystal trophy to Knox.

Knox said:  “The putts have been going in these last couple of weeks and I just had a great feeling on the greens and I wasn’t really aiming but just reacting to the line of the putt.

“I just kept going and going and this is unbelievable.”

Knox now has two weeks on home soil with not only the goal of a first Scottish Open triumph but matching Paul Lawrie’s feat of becoming the second Scot in three Carnoustie Open’s to lift the Claret Jug.

“I am thrilled to go back to Scotland for two weeks where I grew up,” he said.

“But right now, I’m going to enjoy this victory and this tournament. I’ll cross that bridge next week, but obviously over the moon right now, and can’t wait for everything.

“It was it was my time this week and I feel very lucky.

“My goal was to come to Europe for a month and then try and win a tournament, and to finish tied second last week in France and then to win this great tournament, I feel very lucky and unbelievable.”

Knox headed into the Ballyliffin final round at seven under par and a very distant seven shots behind South African Erik Van Rooyen who led the field by four shots.

However, the wheels were soon looking wobbly on ‘Von Rooyen’s Express’ and all-and-sundry, including Knox taking full advantage.

Knox grabbed a huge boost to his round when he landed his second shot at the uphill par-5 fourth hole to some six-feet right of the flag and found the bottom of the cup for an eagle ‘3’.

It lifted Knox from a share of sixth into a then share of second.

Knox then birdied the sixth and after three straight pars but then after a birdie ‘3’ at the 10th the Scot found himself in a four-way share of the lead on 12-under par.

And while he fell tw0 off the lead he headed to the last sharing the lead but only look to have spoilt hopes of success in sending his final drive way right into rough and with 156-yards to the flag, and having to jump up in the air to see the pin beforehand, he hit a ‘blind’ shot to well left of the final flag.

Then in celebration to mirror his 2016 Travelers success, albeit not hurling his cap into the air, Knox clearly delighted in seeing a fifth birdie of his round disappear into the cup.

Fox’s consolation was a tee-time into The Open and with Nuneaton’s Andy Sullivan (69) and South African Zander Lombard (69) securing the other two Carnoustie places.

Also sharing sixth was Danny Willett (72)

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