Russell Knox made two long-bomb birdie putts on hole No. 18 at Ballyliffin Golf Club – first on the 72nd hole, then in a playoff, to win the 2018 DDF Irish Open in thrilling fashion.
With 54-hole leader Erik Van Rooyen struggling to a 2-over par 74, New Zealander Ryan Fox appeared to be in the driver’s seat at 14-under par through 17 holes. But Knox had other plans, as the 33-year old Scot drained a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th and final hole to card a 66 and match Fox at 14-under par. After the New Zealander missed a 10-foot birdie putt of his own on 18, it was on to overtime in Ballyliffin, Donegal, Ireland.
Once again Fox seemed to have a clear advantage on the first sudden-death hole (No. 18) as he striped a drive dead-straight down the fairway, while Knox’s poor tee shot found the rough to the right. Hitting his approach from a tough lie and bad angle, Knox did well to find the green, but still left his ball about 40 feet away from the hole, in almost the identical spot it had lied in regulation.
Knox surely wouldn’t do it again, right?
Wrong. He drained it once again, and after Fox missed another makeable 12-foot birdie putt, the trophy was Knox’s to raise.
The Scot said the thrilling finish is what makes him tick.
“It’s why I play golf. I mean all the practice days, all the misses, all the bad moments, all that’s taken care of with putts like that,” said Knox.
“I just remember standing over it, and saying, ‘I mean just don’t aim just hit the putt and see what happens.’ And I flushed the putt, and of course making two of them from almost identical positions.
“I mean obviously that’s a bit of a bonus but unbelievable. So happy.”
The win was Knox’s first since his breakout 2016 season, where he won the WGC-HSBC China event, and followed it up with a victory at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship later that summer. The maiden Rolex Series title earned Knox $1,166,000 and 38 Official World Golf Rankings points, which moves him back inside the all-important top-50 list.
“It’s so hard to win tournaments. The way I managed to do it, holing those two long putts, it was just my time,” said Knox.
“I’m just lucky to win one of these massive events, so thank you very much to Rolex.”
As runner-up, Fox walked away with a fifth top-10 finish in a Rolex Series event, and secured an invite to the Open Championship in two weeks.
Spaniard Jorge Campillo was alone in third after a final-day 65 moved him to 13-under par, one clear of compatriot and defending champion Jon Rahm, along with overnight leader Van Rooyen.
Englishman Andy Sullivan and South African Zander Lombard joined Fox as the ticket winners to Carnoustie, after the duo posted matching 69s to sit T6, alongside Thorbjørn Olesen and Danny Willett. Rounding out the top 10 were a pair of Frenchmen in Raphael Jacquelin and Matthieu Pavon at 8-under par.
2018 DDF IRISH OPEN
FINAL TOP 10
POS-PLAYER-TOTAL SCORE (TODAY)
1. Russell Knox -14 (-6)
2. Ryan Fox -14 (-4)
3. Jorge Campillo -13 (-7)
4. Jon Rahm -12 (-6)
4. Erik van Rooyen -12 (+2)
6. Thorbjorn Olesen -9 (-4)
6. Zander Lombard -9 (-3)
6. Andy Sullivan -9 (-3)
6. Danny Willett -9 (E)
10. Matthieu Pavon -8 (-1)
10. Raphael Jacquelin -8 (-1)
TOP-5 IRISH OPEN CASHERS
1st – $1,166,000 (Knox)
2nd – $777,770 (Fox)
3rd – $438,200 (Campillo)
4th – $323,400 (Rahm)
4th – $323,400 (Van Rooyen)
VIDEO: RUSSELL KNOX’S WINNING PUTT
Knox opened with a 71 to sit T30, but carded a second-round 69 to move inside the top 10, heading into the weekend. A 68 on moving day bumped the Scot into the top 5, and part of the chasing pack on Sunday.
1. Ryan Fox -5 (67)
2. Adrien Saddier -4 (68)
2. Ashley Chesters -4 (68)
2. Robert Rock -4 (68)
2. Padraig Harrington -4 (68)
2. Matthieu Pavon -4 (68)
2. Lee Westwood -4 (68)
2. Danny Willett -4 (68)
30. Russell Knox -1 (71)
1. Ryan Fox -8 (67-69)
1. Matthieu Pavon -8 (68-68)
1. Erik van Rooyen -8 (71-65)
9. Russell Knox -4 (71-69)
1. Erik van Rooyen -14 (71-65-66)
2. Joakim Lagergren -10 (69-68-69)
2. Ryan Fox -10 (67-69-70)
5. Russell Knox -8 (71-69-68)
RUSSELL KNOX’S STATS
Cumulative through 72 holes
Driving: 305.4 yards (18th)
Fairways Hit: 30/56, 53.3% (19th)
Greens Hit: 56/72, 77.8% (1st)
Par-3s: -1 (1 Birdie, 11 Pars)
Par-4s: -7 (12 Birdies, 31 Pars, 5 Bogeys)
Par-5s: -6 (2 Eagles, 3 Birdies, 6 Pars, 1 Bogey)
All 72 Holes: -14 (2 Eagles, 16 Birdies, 48 Pars, 6 Bogeys)
EXIT QUESTION: RUSSELL KNOX
Q: How do you feel now heading to the Scottish Open and The Open Championship a week later?
RUSSELL KNOX: Obviously thrilled to go back to Scotland for two weeks where I grew up. But right now I’m going to enjoy this victory and this tournament. I’ll cross that bridge next week, but obviously over the moon right now, and can’t wait for everything.
FINAL SCORES & MONEY: 2018 IRISH OPEN
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open | Ballyliffin GC | Co. Donegal, Ireland | July 8, 2018