Knox relishing ‘mini majors’ return to the Tour

by | Apr 20, 2020 | 0 comments

Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free Colm McLoughlin with the winner of last year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Russell Knox

Bernie McGuire

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Former Irish Open winner Russell Knox could not have wished for a better opening three-event lineup to a rescheduled PGA Tour season with events in Texas, South Carolina and Connecticut being his ‘mini Majors’.

The PGA Tour announced last Thursday the proposal, should COVID-19 fears ease, for a June 11th return to competition at the Charles Schwab Challenge on the famed Ben Hogan Colonial course in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Tour will then head east the next week to the Atlantic shores at Hilton Head for the RBC Heritage and followed some 700-miles north by the June 25-28 Travelers Championship near Cromwell in Connecticut.

The three, along with a fourth event, the July 2-5 Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, will be spectator-free.

A year ago, Knox posted a final round 65 for a season-best T8th in Texas while in 2016 he finished runner-up at the RBC Heritage and then six events later the proud Scot won on U.S. soil for a first occasion at the TPC River Highlands course in Connecticut.

“At the start of every New Year I will sit down and look at the tournaments that I want to play and that I feel like I can play my best, and I class Fort Worth, the RBC at Hilton Head and the Travelers as my ‘mini majors’,” he said from his Jacksonville home.

“So, the three venues, Colonial, Hilton Head and River Highlands, are top three of my list, and if we do get the nod to return to the Tour mid-June then those are three of my best events in a row.

“It would be right out of the gate after what would be a near three-month absence it would be an excellent opportunity for me as I hopefully will get to play three of my favourite events.

“Though what’s going to be weird is playing without spectators as I would have to go back to my junior days in playing an event without spectators, so that is going to be even stranger.”

Knox is a member of the PGA Tour’s 16-man Players Advisory Committee that got together in a phone hook-up on Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s notice of an intended restart.

And while optimistic, he’s very conscious a mid-June restart is not set in stone.

“Whether we will get back to competition at Fort Worth depends on who you watch or who you listen to but I am fairly optimistic as June 11 is still a long way away and the world is obviously changing,” said Knox,

“Andy Pazder (Executive Vice-President and Chief of Operations) from the Tour had said to us: ‘We are not going to be taking any risks’.

“So, if there is any hint of doubt for safety and if there are international travel bans in place for overseas players, caddies and coaches then all of that has to be taken into consideration.

“If it remains 50-50 or hit-and-miss, the Tour is definitely not going to push it. They have done an incredible amount of work putting together this schedule and I am sure it has taken many hours and an awful lot of phone calls, and spoken to a lot of people away from the Tour, so they are thinking a mid-June restart is achievable.”

The Tour set out on a 2020/21 schedule last September with the first of a scheduled 48 FedEx Cup counting events and had staged 23 when the Players Championship was cancelled.

It’s now lost 10 events to cancellation, including The Open, while the Olympics was put back to 2021, leaving just 13 events on the schedule.

“A lot players are going to have to pay special attention to their intended new schedule as we are looking at just 13 weeks in the remainder now of the ‘19/’20 schedule,” he added.

“There’s going to be a lot of the guys who’ll be desperate to go and play but you just can’t go full ‘Kamikaze’ and play everything.

“A lot of people maybe will want to play all 13, and maybe that will also be me, but it will all depend where you are on the FedEx Cup points standing but with just so few events on the ‘19/’20 schedule I am doing okay but I would still like to push on and get more points and make sure I do qualify for the Play-Offs.

“If you’ve already had a great year, you could not just go crazy and pick where you want to play though in saying that the fields for the first few are going to be very strong.

“As well, there is some big names who have not made many FedEx Cup points yet so there will a lot of guys looking to get a start out in Fort Worth, Hilton Head and so on.

“There is the opposite end of the scale where the rookies are looking to hold onto their playing status and while there is a lot of rumours going about, the Tour just does not know what it will be doing and I just can’t comment on that.”

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