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July 2, 2019

Russell Knox

County Clare, Republic of Ireland

THE MODERATOR: I'm delighted to welcome Dubai Duty Free Irish Open defending champion Russell Knox. Let's roll back 12 months and talk about that moment last year when you actually got your hands on that famous trophy, because it really was something remarkable.

RUSSELL KNOX: Yeah, it was a crazy ending to the tournament that fortunately I was on the good end of. To hole a par in the last hole to post whatever score it was eventually making the playoff is obviously an Irish Open I'll never forget.

And to somehow walk it again is obviously a dream come true. To hole a putt in any tournament to win, I'll just never forget the whole atmosphere, the crowd, everything, the cheers when the putts went in, it's kind of a pinch-yourself moment.

THE MODERATOR: We're here at Lahinch, very different to Ballyliffin last year, but you've seen the course. Your thoughts on it so far.

RUSSELL KNOX: Lahinch is a great track. It's very lengthy, very similar to some of the courses I grew up playing in the north of Scotland. A lot of blind shots, which some people might not like it.

But, like I said, I grew up playing similar courses. So it's kind of a different fun and unique challenge. But there's some excellent holes. Fairly tight. You have to drive the ball very well. And definitely a course which is going to test all of us this week.


Q. You seem to have a lot of affinity with the Irish Open. In 2016 you were right behind Rory McIlroy. And in 2018 running in the playoff. And you won in the north of Ireland, Dublin and winning it in the south of Ireland down the West Coast. You have the whole of Ireland, from the north and south victories?
RUSSELL KNOX: Obviously it's been a great tournament for me. And Ireland is always -- I feel like home here, growing up in the north of Scotland, obviously a lot of similarities. And the K Club is completely different to Ballyliffin, and they're both very different from here.

It's been an honor to play here. And I love playing Ireland. And I hope it continues this week and in a couple weeks' time, too.

Q. I suppose on comments and thoughts in 2016, was that a really driving force for you in the last tournament, in 2018, coming behind Rory McIlroy in 2016, was it extra incentive to kick off?
RUSSELL KNOX: Not really. At the same time I guess so. When you're close to winning a tournament, yeah, you want to -- you'd love to win it, obviously because of the different venues, not completely different. But all these big national Opens, Irish Open and U.S. Open, those are the big ones, you want to win them.

So like I said, it's an honor to be the champion and I hope I can repeat.

Q. Looking at this season, how would you describe it so far from your point of view? You seem fairly sturdy, playing against two top 10s, two missed cuts from 16 starts?
RUSSELL KNOX: It's been kind of a strange year. There have been no major fireworks, I guess would be the way to put it. I think every aspect of my game feels very good. And I've been driving well. I think recently I've been putting great for the last month or two.

There's been no really glaring weakness. Just try to put it all together for four days. And just the only thing I'm missing, yeah, I'm happy about not having missed very many cuts but I have to turn those into finishes somehow and obviously finishing in the 20s or 30s just means that I've had one kind of bad day or just not quite being clicking on all cylinders.

But I've been fortunate in my career in the last 10 years or so that every year I've gotten on a little roll and obviously we all know it can happen at any time. So let's hope it starts right here.

Q. A pretty good three-week start, for instance, to have a 2000 [phonetic] top four, presumably play next week in the Open, is that your thought?
RUSSELL KNOX: Historically, this has been a good time of year for me. I think a lot of players will peak at similar times of year and throughout their career. And this has been obviously a good stretch for me in the past. So it would be good to go right now.

Q. And you mentioned, I think, there's two blind holes, one of them a par-3 I believe. Could you describe what it's like to play those two holes in particular?
RUSSELL KNOX: Four and five. Four is probably the smallest fairway I've ever seen out of any hole anywhere in the world. But it does all kick in from the hills. But I mean, hit over a mount to a hole where there's out of bounds right behind the green.

I mean, it is what it is. It's a cool hole. Back in the day, similar holes at courses I grew up playing, and a few blind shots at (indiscernible) and then further north in the (indiscernible) area.

But you wouldn't even go up to the top of the hill when you were a junior. Oh, just hit it over the rock, there you go, just get it down there, and get on with it; whereas, in terms of (indiscernible), you see -- so it's all about your attitude and just how you go into it.

I mean, you know that you're going to have to hit that shot four times. And the same with the fifth hole, the par-3. It's a great little hole.

Some people are going to get extremely unlucky and make a mess of it? Absolutely. But get a nice bounce off the hill, you might make it.

So if it was mildly windy, it would be very difficult. But I think the forecast looks pretty good. So I think you'll see a lot of good shots on both of those holes. But it's all about how you look at it. Some guys are not going to like it. But I think our (indiscernible) do like it.

Q. Paul McGinley said he would be surprised if there wasn't a hole in one on the fifth. Is that because -- you haven't seen it?
RUSSELL KNOX: Yeah, it does. If you're just short, it should kick on. And if you're just long it should come back for certain pins. And yeah, the distance to the holes, with 156 people playing, someone's going to be very close, if not making a one. I'll take four 3s right now.

Q. Russell, I happened to be out there when you were playing 13. And I was just to the left of the green when you were trying to hit putts up around the bunker and then a (indiscernible) over the bunker. If could you describe that to people, or at least your feelings how that might be one of the most difficult holes out here? The question, the bigger spin, how do you feel about how familiar are you with Portrush, but compare Lahinch and Portrush? Have you played Portrush?
RUSSELL KNOX: I've never handled Portrush.

Q. You can pass on that. To me, it would be a great tandem, this is a good course to prepare for Portrush. I'm guessing you've probably heard that. I think that's why a lot of players, if they're smart, they'd be playing here in addition to Portrush. If you go back to 13.
RUSSELL KNOX: 13 is a great hole. (Indiscernible) which is a par-3. But I think now (indiscernible) 340 yards. But it appears that you go for the green, which I think are not go for the green, but try to hit close to the green.

And I think everyone will do that because there isn't really a way up. It's so unpredictable, the mound. I think a lot of people will hit driver. Looks like if you hit it to the right, you're not going to be good over there. So I was a little to the left today, rolled up almost pin high left to the green.

But it's hard there. Tight lie. First one, tried to putt, left of the bunker. Almost -- can't even laugh, but it was, it was terrible, rolled into the bunker. Then chipped it on.

But even where I was left of the green, almost every pin position, really not that easy up-and-down. Want definitely hard up-and-down. So there's a hole that's short, you'll see some birdies on it. And you'll see a lot of people make a mess of it as well. So it's a great hole for that.

There's options. But just because it's short doesn't mean it's easy. And it won't play as an easy hole this week, I don't think.

Q. Lahinch almost feels like a carnival sort of atmosphere, sort of intimate (indiscernible) where everyone sort of (indiscernible) together. How does that compare to last year at Ballyliffin and (indiscernible)? Do you see similarities or what struck you the most about how Lahinch is all about?
RUSSELL KNOX: There are a lot of similarities. You feel like you're kind of isolated a little bit. You're in the middle of nowhere. And it's, I mean, the views are unbelievable. Just like last year at Ballyliffin, you're right on the water. Beautiful beaches. It is an amazing -- very, like, peaceful part of the world. It's just like last year.

I've enjoyed my first couple of days here. I feel like there are a lot of similarities. And you feel very relaxed because you're in the middle of nowhere. There's not that much going on and it's very peaceful.

I enjoy that side of it. And as the golf course, very lengthy, obviously. I think there's a lot of similarities. And hopefully I play the same.

Q. Think you'll go back into the top 15 in the world, when you won last year, went back a little since then, do you think this is the kind of course where you could perhaps win again and start making another move up those world rankings?
RUSSELL KNOX: Yeah, I think where I'm standing now plays out making the cut and finishing between 20 and 40. You can chip away, make a little bit of dough. But it's not going to help me for the world rankings. Yes, I've dropped a little bit.

So, yeah, I see myself as a top 50 player. I feel like I should be there. And just have to play better, as simple as that.

You don't want to put pressure on yourself when you come to the course and say I know I can play well here and I should contend to win.

I mean, I'm good at golf but I don't feel I'm good enough to say, well, I should win here. It's one of those things that you just kind of slowly creep up on. And when it happens, it happens.

Yes, do I know that I have the links golf experience? Yes. Do I think I could do well here? Absolutely. Does that mean anything? No. I mean, I've won two tournaments on courses I probably thought weren't very similar.

So it's just one of those weird things; but when it all comes together, doesn't matter if the course is great. If you're terrible, you're playing good, you make putts, you have a chance.

Q. Which holes are you sort of on red alert on out there and are there any holes that really get your attention and you are really focused on?
RUSSELL KNOX: There are if you hit terrible shots. Just like they're easy if you hit good shots. Also there are blind shots, will get lots of attention this week, 4 and 5.

And there's a lot of tee shots where you kind of hit over mounds as well where you can't see the ball land. And then I think those are reported to how people will play this week.

And if you're in the fairway, you can attack and your score will be low. On a lot of those shots, if you hit over the hills, it's tough to kind of (indiscernible) the fairway, it can be challenging to get it in play there. I think whoever wins this week will drive the ball very well on those kind of difficult tee shots.

Q. The Klondyke, will you walk up to the top of the hill or take the advice of your caddie or just take advice to pick a line?
RUSSELL KNOX: Never listen to your caddie. (Laughter).

Q. You said you hit the ball -- I know the green will be on the hill, but do you think maybe you will be tempted at the Klondyke maybe to walk up to take a look?
RUSSELL KNOX: I think you'll see everyone, all the players will go up, take a look, to give yourself a reference.

Today, I kind of -- did hit the greens too short and I was quite far back. I hit the first one like 50 yards right. So I think I didn't walk up. So I probably should've.

But I think you'll see every player walk up there and (indiscernible). And it's a tricky green. And it depends on the left.

Probably not going to get that close to it without pulling your shot. So it's a hole where you'll see a lot of people try to creep on. A lot on the front end of the green and just try to make their four.

Q. You said some favorable things about the quirky nature of the course. The blindness of that. I don't know if you're aware or not, but there was a major reshaping done around (indiscernible) by (indiscernible). And he chose to leave those kinds characteristics, like (indiscernible), as they were. He could have, with modern equipment technology he would have done (indiscernible). And the club wanted it that way. I mean, were they right?
RUSSELL KNOX: Absolutely. I think so. That's what makes this course different. If those holes were just flattened and it was normal and then it would maybe just be another links course.

And so every challenge a course can get, a chance to be a little different, something that you remember. Like, everyone who comes here remembers that: Remember that par-3 that you hit over the mound. Those are things that people talk about.

And it's probably one of the reasons why I imagine this place is very familiar for tourists to come, and a lot of Americans, they love that stuff.

I think they did a great job not changing those holes. And, yes, there will be a lot of criticism this week, the blind par-3. But there will be a lot of people who love it.

And I'm definitely going to be one of those people that enjoy playing it. And even if I play the hole terrible doesn't mean they're bad designs; they're just different, and you've got to embrace that challenge.


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