Russell Knox, after missing FedEx Cup Playoffs by 2 strokes, comes out of the gate with 63 at Safeway Open

NAPA, Calif. – Russell Knox looked up from his cell phone and told his caddie, “Good gracious, you find out how many friends you have (...)

Russell Knox, after missing FedEx Cup Playoffs by 2 strokes, comes out of the gate with 63 at Safeway Open

NAPA, Calif. – Russell Knox looked up from his cell phone and told his caddie, “Good gracious, you find out how many friends you have when you have a good day.”

To which Bradley Whittle, never breaking stride, retorted, “Better than having them cheer you up for a bad one.”

Well, there was plenty of reason for friends of Knox to text words of congratulations after shooting 9-under 63 at Silverado Resort & Spa’s North Course to grab a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Safeway Open.

Knox, 35, missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs by a matter of two strokes, finishing No. 127 in the regular-season points standings after struggling following the resumption of play in June. (He missed 10 straight cuts between AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February and the 3M Open in July.)

“I mean, I deserved to not make it,” he said.

Safeway Open: Leaderboard | Tee times, TV

But Knox didn’t sit at home and stew. Instead, he made a significant change, hiring a new coach, Mark McCann, and attempting to dig it out of the dirt.

“I don’t see myself as a golfer who should be missing the Playoffs, but I just had a weird year, weird couple years, got into a little funk. It’s hard, you’ve got to fight out of it,” he said. “I’ve worked as hard as I ever have the last two weeks before this event. So, it’s really nice to see something good happen immediately. I definitely feel like my game is heading in the right direction.”

Knox’s bogey-free round included playing 4 under on a three-hole stretch starting at No. 4, an eagle at the par-5, fifth hole. The Scot drilled 3-hybrid from 229 yards to 14 feet and rolled in the putt. Knox turned in 31 and tacked on four more birdies on the inward nine, including a 31-foot birdie putt at 12 and birdies at two of the last three holes.

 

“When you have a good round like this, putts like that go in,” Knox said of the lengthy putt at 12.

Knox isn’t attempting to chase distance – he’s been down that road, he said – but rather get back to what he does best.

“I got away from kind of my DNA, I guess, of what’s made me be able to play on the PGA Tour. I’ve just tried to tighten it up and get back to hitting it straight, hitting on the fairways and then allowing my iron game to take over, which has fortunately always been kind of there for me. Then if I make a few putts, then I can have a good round,” he said. “I can’t worry about the big boys sending it. For me, I’ve just got to get it in play and take it from there.”

Knox leads Sam Burns and Cameron Percy, who finished T-7 here a year ago and used a three-week layoff to rehab a rib injury, by one stroke.

“I didn’t touch a club for the first two weeks,” Percy said. “I hit some shots in the rough today that normally I would be just hitting them 80 yards, I actually got them out 200 yards sort of thing. My body’s back to feeling half decent so I can actually hit the ball properly, so it made a huge difference.”

Brendan Steele is simply getting back to one of his favorite stomping grounds. The two-time Safeway Open winner (2016, 2017) posted a bogey-free 7-under 65.

“It kind of reminded me of my first round, I shot 63 maybe in 2016 in the opening round and it was very stress free, felt very comfortable, hit a lot of good shots,” he said.

So, what’s his secret to success at Silverado?

“People have been asking me that for years,” he said. “I really have a good sense of where you can be aggressive out here, where you need to be conservative, where you can miss it to different pins. I just kind of understood it right away, which is nice. And being from California, I’m comfortable on the greens.”

It was a tough day for many of the headliners: Phil Mickelson rallied to shoot 71, Sergio Garcia settled for 72, and Brandt Snedeker and Jordan Spieth signed for 73s.

Knox, who tabbed himself a notoriously slow starter at tournaments, couldn’t remember if he’d ever held a first round lead in his nine years on Tour. It turns out he was co-leader of the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

“I’ve struggled first rounds for so long (just one opening round under par since February) I feel like, so one of my main goals this season was to get off to a better start,” he said. “I didn’t quite expect this, but nice to shoot a good score.”

And nice to get congratulatory texts from all your friends, too.

Source : Golf Week More   

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Report: John Daly diagnosed with bladder cancer

John Daly has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, according to a report from the Golf Channel. On an episode of Golf Channel's "PGA (...)

Report: John Daly diagnosed with bladder cancer

John Daly has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, according to a report from the Golf Channel.

On an episode of Golf Channel’s “PGA Tour Champions Learning Center,” the 54-year-old revealed he underwent a procedure to remove the aggressive cancer. Although the procedure was successful, Golf Channel reported Daly said there is still a possibility of recurrence.

“(My urologist) said there’s an 85 percent chance it comes back. So I’ve got to go back and see him in three months. They will probably have to cut it out again,” Daly said, according to Golf Channel. “It’s probably going to come back, and then another three months that you don’t know. You just don’t know.

“Luckily for me, they caught it early, but bladder cancer is something that I don’t know all the details. But it doesn’t look like it may go away. We will just see what happens. Maybe there’s a miracle.”

Daly, who won the 1991 PGA Championship winner and the 1995 Open Championship, has not posted on social media about his diagnosis. He has a total of five PGA Tour wins to his credit.

He said was battling kidney stones and back pain for weeks ahead of his diagnosis, and added that he will change his eating habits and undergo frequent check-ups as he battles the disease.

At the forefront of Daly’s health changes are cutting back on Diet Coke and attempting to quit smoking.

“The doctors aren’t saying it’s too late. Unfortunately, it’s a cancer that keeps coming back. But I’m going to listen to them, and I’m going to try and quit smoking,” Daly said in the interview. “If it comes back, it comes back. Six months to a year, if it doesn’t go away, I’m going to live my life. I’m gonna have some fun.”

Despite the diagnosis, Daly remains optimistic.

“Well, you know what, I always tell people I’ve lived one hell of a life. No matter what happens, I’m not scared to die or anything,” Daly said. “It would have been nice to play the last seven or eight or 13 years of my career a little more healthy. But hey, I’m still working, I’m still living life, I’m still doing the things I need to do. … I can accept the challenge. I’m not scared of that. I just want my kids to be OK and everyone else in my family.”

Daly last competed on the Champions Tour in mid August at the Charles Schwab Series at Bass Pro Shops Big Cedar Lodge in which he withdrew after two rounds due to illness. Daly also competed at the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship in early August, where he finished T-70.

Daly also withdrew from the field at the PGA Championship in early August due to health concerns.

Golf Channel’s “PGA Tour Champions Learning Center” episode with Daly’s full interview airs Monday at 11:30 p.m. ET.

 

Source : Golf Week More   

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