Knox edges Fox in Irish Open thriller

Golf News

It was some finish from Russell Knox at Ballyliffin to deny Ryan Fox his maiden European Tour title. Keel Timmins wraps up the action

What happened at the Irish Open?

Russell Knox defeated Ryan Fox in a playoff at a drama-packed Irish Open to win at Ballyliffin.

The Scot drained a huge birdie putt on the 18th to set the clubhouse target at 14-under-par, which was matched just minutes later by the huge-hitting Kiwi.

And on the first playoff hole at the 18th, after narrowly missing the fairway bunker with his tee shot, Knox played his approach into almost the exact same spot from which he had made his lengthy putt in regulation.

The result? A near identical putt to force Fox to make his birdie, which burned the left-edge.

Fox will be feeling aggrieved after seemingly being in control, but few will begrudge this victory from Knox, who went agonisingly close at this very tournament just two years ago.

Knox, who plays the majority of his golf on the PGA Tour, may have been the beneficiary of plenty of good fortune in the playoff, but he deserved his spot against Fox after posting a fine round of 66.

He got off the mark with an eagle at the fourth hole on his way to a front-nine 32, and then made four birdies on the back-nine, finalised with that incredible putt on the 18th.

Fox, who was playing in the penultimate group alongside Danny Willett, birdied the par-5 17th and headed to the final hole in the knowledge that a birdie would see him lift his first European Tour title.

In the circumstances, the New-Zealander played it almost to perfection. After blasting his drive down the fairway, he hit his approach to eight feet. The putt just missed on the right.

There was also disappointment for the overnight leader, Erik Van Rooyen, who didn’t look comfortable with front-running from the off. When the South African made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the front-nine, he’d face an uphill battle to try and claw his way back to the leaders. A combination of wild tee shots, wayward approaches and the occasional missed short putt meant he could only get within two shots.

Spain’s Jorge Campillo continued his fine form of late to post a rollercoaster final round 65, which included two eagles and five birdies. A superb par-save at the 18th got him in the clubhouse at 13-under-par, agonisingly just one shot short of the eventual playoff.

And the defending champion Jon Rahm will be ruing his triple-bogey at the second hole after missing the playoff by only two shots. After his error-strewn seven, Rahm made an eagle and seven birdies – including four straight to close the round – to sign for a 66 and a share for fourth place.

Full Irish Open leaderboard

Talking point

Rory McIlroy – the tournament host – slumped to a final round 71 and a share of 28th place.

He’ll head into The Open Championship in a fortnight’s time lacking in confidence and in desperate need of finding something in his game.

Firm and fast links golf courses have never been McIlroy’s strength, and with the fine weather set to continue, a baked Carnoustie may not present the opportunity to turn his recent form around.

On Saturday, McIlroy admitted he has been struggling, particularly on the greens: “I’m just sort of stuck in neutral this week. I gave myself quite a few chances and I’ve struggled to capitalise on them, but it’s tough. It feels like on this golf course, you should go out and shoot five or six under par every day, but it’s a little trickier than that.

“I just need to work a little bit. I worked the last couple days and I’ve got a little bit of a left in my stroke at the minute and it’s quite similar to what my golf swing is doing. I’m dragging the club left at impact and it’s the same with the putting.

“I need to try to release it straight down the line a little bit more and if I do that and I start to hit putts on line, hopefully they will start going in.

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