Russell Knox set his sights on Open championship glory and Ryder Cup redemption after defeating Ryan Fox in a play-off to win the £5.3million Irish Open in truly extraordinary fashion.
The Inverness golfer holed from 40ft for birdie across the 18th green in regulation to join Fox at the top of the leaderboard, the New Zealander then missing from 8ft for a birdie of his own to win the title.
When the players returned to the 18th for a sudden-death play-off the situation was remarkably repeated, Knox holing from an almost identical place for birdie before Fox saw his attempt catch the edge of the hole and spin out.
“It’s tough to describe how amazing this feels,” Knox said after a closing 66. “I can’t believe I’m holding this trophy. After I made eagle on the fourth I knew I was in it. The putts have been going in the last couple of weeks, I had a great feeling on the greens.”
Speaking about the two putts on the 18th, Knox added: “It’s why I play golf, all the practice, all the misses, all the bad moments are taken care of with putts like that.
“Making two of them from an almost identical position is obviously a bit of a bonus. I’m so happy. I said to my caddie (on the play-off hole) we’ve already made this putt, it can’t be too difficult. I feel bad for Ryan but I guess it was my time.”
Knox, who took home a cheque for £877,000, was controversially overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild card in 2016 despite being ranked 20th in the world at the time, higher than seven members of the European team which would go on to lose at Hazeltine.
He hinted that he would have to qualify automatically to secure a place on Thomas Bjorn’s team for this year’s contest at Le Golf National in Paris.
“To make that team, obviously you have to win tournaments,” added Knox, who climbs to eighth in the qualifying race and back inside the world’s top 50.
“This is a great start but this is not good enough. I need to hammer down and I’m going to have to make that team in order to go to France. I would love to win the Scottish Open as well and for me to be playing in the Open at Carnoustie, one of the best courses in the world, I’m very happy. Might as well go try and win there.”
Knox is the first Scottish winner on the European Tour since Aberdeen’s Richie Ramsay triumphed in the Hassan Trophy in March 2015.
Fox had the consolation of booking his place in the Open for the second year running in this event. Andy Sullivan and Zander Lombard joined Fox in claiming an Open qualifying spot after finishing in a tie for sixth.
The European Tour official Twitter account showed the aftermath of Knox’s triumph, when he was joined by some Scottish greenkeepers at the Irish Open for a rousing rendition of Flower of Scotland.