Back in 2004, Scotsman Russell Knox was playing competitively for Jacksonville University when he made it out to watch The Players Championship.
“I was watching, hoping, dreaming that one day I’d be inside the ropes,” Knox said.
His dream came true when he made his debut at the Stadium Course last week in front of a healthy number of friends and former college teammates. Knox, 28, closed with a 68 to finish tied for 34th, the latest in a string of positive performances for the unheralded kid from Inverness.
He has made the cut in 13 of 16 starts, piled up $1,189,471, and from 245th at the end of 2013, Knox has moved to 97th in the world rankings.
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SAWGRASS’ LONG HOLES: Of the four par 5s at the Stadium Course, the 11th causes the most fits. None of the competitors in The Players Championship birdied it all four days as it ranked toughest of the par 5s, with a field average of 4.793.
At the second, Russell Knox had an eagle and three birdies, while Jimmy Walker and Steve Stricker both made four birdies.
At No. 9, Martin Kaymer helped fuel his victory with four birdies. Matt Jones also made four birdies, but Brian Davis proved best, with an eagle and three birdies.
The 16th offers the best scoring chances and Kevin Chappell took advantage with two eagles and two birdies. Jones also birdied this hole four times, as did John Senden, Dustin Johnson, and Rory McIlroy.
No surprise that Bubba Watson played the par 5s best, at 11 under, while Brian Davis, Jimmy Walker, and K.J. Choi were all 10 under.
Kaymer played the par 5s in 8 under, but made four consecutive pars at the 16th. Pat Perez was perhaps the most consistent, though not in a productive way: He made 14 pars, one birdie, and one bogey.
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ELSEWHERE AT STADIUM COURSE: Some other scoring notes from the 41st Players Championship:
- McIlroy played Nos. 16-17-18 in a whopping 10 under par. Next-best were Gary Woodland and Marc Leishman, both at 5 under.
- McIlroy twice birdied 16-17-18 in succession, in both weekend rounds. Russell Henley, Morgan Hoffman, Billy Horschel, Steven Bowditch, and Jason Dufner all did it once.
- Six players went 2 under at the 17th: Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson, Luke Donald, Pat Perez, and McIlroy.
- Eight holes played to an under-par field average, including the island-green 17th (2.986) where only 28 balls were hit into the water, a tournament low.
- No surprise, but the par-4 14th played toughest, a field average of 4.349.
- It was the long, par-3 eighth, however, that yielded the fewest birdies (28).
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STARS WILL BE OUT: Some tournaments have a tough time securing four top 20 players, but not so Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade. They’ve received commitments from Nos. 5 (Matt Kuchar), 13 (Zach Johnson), 15 (Steve Stricker), and 20 (Jason Dufner) for the annual CVS Charity Classic. The two-day team event will be held June 23-24, once again at Faxon’s home course, Rhode Island CC in Barrington, R.I.
Bo Van Pelt will be back alongside Stricker to try and defend their title. Lexi Thompson and Juli Inkster have committed, as has Peter Jacobsen. Faxon and Andrade, of course, will also play, and they’ll announce the balance of the field in a few weeks.
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CADDIE’S HEAVY HEART: Before heading out to work for Martin Kaymer in Sunday’s final round of The Players Championship, caddie Craig Connelly heard the news about a colleague – Iain McGregor had died of a heart attack while working for Alastair Forsyth in the final round of the Madeira Island Open.
Connelly went on with his duties, albeit with a heavy heart.
“He was part of the family, you know,” Connelly said. “He was a fantastic guy, one of the best. He was one of the guys, you’d walk in the bar, Mac was there. Very, very sad.”
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GREAT SYMMETRY: A round of applause for Ned Longson and the unique feat he scored during his recent victory in the American Seniors Golf Association spring championship at Saucon Valley in Hellerton, Penn.
The past president of the Maryland Golf Association made an ace, a birdie, a par, and a bogey – that would be 1, 2, 3, 4 – on the four par 3s on the Weyhill Course.