Knox in his el­e­ment as he stays in hunt in China

The Herald - Herald Sport - - TENNIS, GOLF - BERNIE MCGUIRE

RUS­SELL KNOX drew heav­ily on his Scot­tish golf­ing roots to bat­tle cold, mist and rain and fight his way to a share of sec­ond place in the de­fence of his WGC – HSBC Cham­pi­ons crown in Shang­hai.

Knox posted five birdies and dropped just one shot in a su­perb round of 68 to be tied with Amer­i­can Bill Haas (67) for a 10-un­der par tally on the She­shan course on the out­skirts of Chi­nese fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal.

Ja­pan’s Hideki Mat­suyama grabbed nine birdies, in­clud­ing three in suc­ces­sion at the start of his in­ward half, in a siz­zling seven un­der par 65 to take a three shot lead on 13-un­der par into the week­end rounds of the $US 9.5m event.

The cur­rent World No. 10 ranked Mat­suyama is not only striv­ing to cap­ture a 10th pro ca­reer win along with a fourth PGA Tour count­ing ti­tle but also be­come the first Ja­panese golfer ever to win a WGC ti­tle.

Knox has the dou­ble goal in seek­ing to suc­cess­fully de­fend his HSBC Cham­pi­ons crown but also join Tiger Woods as the only player since the in­cep­tion of the WGC events in 1999 to re­tain the tro­phy.

“I’m thrilled with a 68 as con­di­tions were ex­tremely dif­fi­cult,” said Knox. “I played well. I had a cou­ple chances there at the end, which I would have loved to have made, but it was hard out there. Ev­ery shot was very dif­fi­cult to­wards the end there when it started rain­ing so thrilled with 4-un­der.

“It felt like ev­ery hole it was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. That’s what makes this course so fun to play. It was very chal­leng­ing. And then it started to kind of mist and rain; it got very long. The course played long.”

Of course, Knox grew-up in In­ver­ness and while he’s lived now for a long time in Jack­sonville, Florida there was no tak­ing the Scot­tish out of the Amer­i­can­based pro.

“I was a lit­tle cold but I’m built for this,” he said smil­ing. Man, I would say I don’t en­joy play­ing in this but I’m good at it. So I hope it’s like this on the week­end. When the con­di­tions are like this you have to try and find your edge and if you have a good at­ti­tude when the weather gets bad like that, you can maybe pick up half a shot men­tally.

“I was in the last group last week in Malaysia on Satur­day, so same po­si­tion this week. So look­ing for­ward to do­ing a lit­tle bet­ter.”

Four-time Ma­jor win­ning Rory McIl­roy also got him­self back into con­tention with seven birdies in a six un­der par 66 to be tied in sev­enth place on seven un­der par with three oth­ers in­clud­ing the very in-form Paul Casey (70).

And af­ter pour­ing so much emo­tion and drive into Ry­der Cup, McIl­roy is clearly get­ting back into the mood that won him the Tour Cham­pi­onship and FedEx Cup dou­ble in the week be­fore tee­ing-up at Hazel­tine.

“It’s a lit­tle dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially com­ing off the Ry­der Cup as that was a dis­ap­point­ment, but two weeks of in­tense com­pe­ti­tion and your adren­a­line is pump­ing and ev­ery­thing,” he said.

“This is a WGC ti­tle and it’s s some­times hard to get your­self back up for it.”

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

IN THE ZONE:Rus­sell Knox fires his ap­proach to the 18th.

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