Knox in his element as he stays in hunt in China
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.”
IN THE ZONE:Russell Knox fires his approach to the 18th.