The captain’s quandary for Knox in Ryder Cup
Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III keeps a separate points list for Americans to consider performances that might not show up in the standings, whether that’s Rickie Fowler giving up potential starts to play in the Olympics or Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas winning fall events that don’t count.
The bigger question is whether Darren Clarke is thinking along the same lines.
That could determine whether Russell Knox is at Hazeltine next month. By winning the Travelers Championship, the 31-year-old from Scotland moved within 6.6 ranking points of the ninth and final automatic qualifying spot for Europe.
Knox played college golf at Jacksonville University and has lived in Florida ever since. He didn’t attempt to join the European Tour until after he won a World Golf Championship in Shanghai last year, meaning the 66 ranking points don’t count. If they did, Knox would be No. 5 in the standings and virtually be assured of a spot.
“It puts me in a great position,” Knox said Monday night.
European qualifying ends in three weeks, though Knox The Barclays — the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs and one of the strongest fields of the year — does not count toward the European standings. His last chance to earn points would be the Wyndham Championship next week, but Knox said he doesn’t think he’s going to play. The Travelers was his 10th tournament in the last 13 weeks, and he still has four FedEx Cup events ahead of him.
That means he might have to rely on a captain’s pick.
“I get it that the three picks are there for him to pick whoever he wants,” Knox said. “If he feels I can help the team, he’ll pick me. If he doesn’t feel I can help, he has all the right in the world to pick someone else.”
Considering his two victories, anyone else might seem to be a lock for a pick.
The problem is that Clarke already has five Ryder Cup rookies among the top nine — Masters champion Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Clarke likely would look for experience to round out his team for the Sept. 30 start of the matches at Hazeltine.
Then again, Europe had six rookies when it won the Ryder Cup at Wales.
“I think it would be very difficult for me not to be on the team,” Knox said.
PAYNE STEWART AWARD: Jim Furyk went from a record score to a humbling award in the span of two days.
Furyk, who set the PGA Tour record with a 58 in the final round of the Travelers Championship, was announced Tuesday as winner of the Payne Stewart Award. He will be honored Sept. 20 during the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
The Payne Stewart Award began in 2000, a year after the two-time U.S. Open champion perished in a freak plane accident. It players who best exemplify his value, characters and charity.
“I was fortunate enough to know Payne as a colleague and friend, and I always admired the character and spirit he brought to the game of golf,” Furyk said. “The Payne Stewart Award is an important part of the tour’s efforts to honor Payne’s legacy. Knowing my name will be forever linked to him through this honor is extremely humbling, and I am very grateful.”
Furyk and his wife Tabitha started a foundation after he won the FedEx Cup in 2010 to provide for needy families and children. With the Payne Stewart Award, he receives a $300,000 grant that he will distribute to six charities through his foundation.
THE KING’S TAKE: Arnold Palmer has heard the national anthem at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup during opening ceremonies, but never for his own performance on the golf course. That what he says he will miss the most about never having a chance to compete in the Olympics.
Golf is back in the Olympics for the first time since 1904 — 25 years before Palmer was born. He wrote his thoughts in an essay for Golf Channel, which is televising golf in the Rio Games.
“The winners at the Olympics step up, bursting with pride, because everything that they have worked for and all their dedication is rewarded in a climax that I, and most golfers, will never experience,” Palmer wrote. “Representing their countries, they will listen to the music, stare at their flag, wear a medal with millions of people watching around the world, and know that this moment in time is all about them and what they have achieved.”
THE IMPORTANT RING: Before heading to an event symbolized by five rings, Stacy Lewis will have one of her own.
A wedding ring.
Lewis, one of three Americans to qualify for the Olympic women’s competition that starts next week in Rio, got married to Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Caldwell on Aug. 6 in a private ceremony in Mystic, Connecticut.
They are expected to arrive in Rio this weekend.
Lewis was the second-highest American to qualify in the world ranking behind Lexi Thompson. Her last LPGA victory was two years ago. Perhaps marriage can have the same effect it once had on Juli Inkster. She was a 20-year-old newlywed who headed off to Prairie Dunes in Kansas in 1980 and won the first of three straight U.S. Women’s Amateur titles.
DIVOTS: Jordan Spieth is not playing the John Deere Classic, making him one of five players who did not or will not defend a PGA Tour title this season. The others are Sangmoon Bae (Frys.com Open), who started his mandatory military service in South Korea; Scott Piercy (Barbasol Championship) qualified for a World Golf Championship at Firestone; and Danny Lee (Greenbrier Classic) did not get a chance because flooding canceled the tournament. Davis Love III had hip surgery and will not be at the Wyndham Championship next week. ... Mariah Stackhouse, who led Stanford to the NCAA title last year, has received a sponsor exemption in five Symetra Tour events. She also has signed up for the first stage of LPGA Tour qualifying that starts Aug. 25. ... Tim Mickelson, the brother of Phil Mickelson, has left as golf coach at Arizona State to work for Lagardere Sports. He is representing Sun Devils star Jon Rahm of Spain.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Russell Knox moved to No. 18 in the world, making him the fourth player from Scotland to be among the top 20 following Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie.
FINAL WORD: “It’s not a strong golfing region, but that’s a great thing, too. Those people may be experiencing golf for the first time and hopefully the bug bites, if that’s not too unfortunate a term.” — International Golf Federation President Peter Dawson on golf returning to the Olympics in Brazil. The men’s competition has been hurt by 21 withdrawals, most of them citing the mosquito-borne Zika virus.