Dubai Duty Free Irish Open: Russell Knox holes monster putts to win play-off

Russell Knox celebrates winning the Irish Open
Russell Knox celebrates winning the Irish Open

Russell Knox holed two monster putts on the 18th green to snatch the Dubai Duty Free title in amazing fashion after a play-off win over Ryan Fox at Ballyliffin.

Leaderboard

-14 Russell Knox (won at first play-off hole)

-14 Ryan Fox

-13 Jorge Campillo

-12 Jon Rahm, Erik van Rooyen

-11 Zander Lombard, Thorbjorn Olesen, Danny Willett, Andy Sullivan

Day four report

Scotland's Russell Knox defeated Ryan Fox in a play-off to win the £5.3million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in amazing fashion at Ballyliffin.

Knox holed from 40 feet for birdie across the 18th green in regulation to join Fox on 14 under par, the New Zealander then missing from eight feet for a birdie of his own to win the title.

And when the players returned to the 18th for a sudden-death play-off the situation was repeated, Knox holing from almost exactly the same place for birdie before Fox saw his attempt from close range catch the edge of the hole and spin out.

"It's tough to describe how amazing this feels," Knox said at the presentation ceremony. "Unbelievable. I can't believe I'm holding this (trophy).

"After I made eagle on the fourth I knew I was in it. The putts have been going in the last couple of weeks, I had a great feeling on the greens and I just kept going."

Speaking about the two putts on the 18th, Knox added: "It's why I play golf, all the practice, all the misses, all the bad moments are taken care of with putts like that.

"Making two of them from an almost identical position is obviously a bit of a bonus. I'm so happy. I said (on the play-off hole) we've already made this putt, it can't be too difficult. I feel bad for Ryan but I guess it was my time."

Spain's Jorge Campillo finished a shot outside the play-off after a brilliant final round of 65, with defending champion Jon Rahm another stroke back following a remarkable 66 which included a triple-bogey seven on the second and five birdies in the last six holes.

South Africa's Erik van Rooyen began the day with a four-shot lead but struggled to a 74 to finish alongside Rahm on 12 under. Tournament host Rory McIlroy carded a closing 71 to finish two under par overall.

Day three report

South Africa's Erik van Rooyen will take a commanding lead into the final day of the £5.3million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open after a brilliant third round at Ballyliffin.

Van Rooyen began the day in a three-way tie for the lead, but stormed to the turn in just 29 shots on his way to a superb 66 to finish 14 under par, four shots ahead of New Zealand's Ryan Fox and Sweden's Joakim Lagergren.

Former Masters champion Danny Willett is five shots off the pace after recovering from a poor start with the aid of four birdies in a row on the back nine, with Scotland's Russell Knox a shot further back on eight under.

Van Rooyen, who is seeking a first European Tour title, made the ideal start with birdies on the first and second before picking up further shots on the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth.

"The mindset was just keep going, I guess," said the 28-year-old, who would be just the second South African winner of the Irish Open after Bobby Locke in 1938 if he can win on Sunday.

"I wasn't very much aware of my score or the situation. You sometimes get in a groove as a golfer where things just happen and you hit great shots and great putts and that's what happened.

"It wasn't different on the back nine. I still played great. I wish I could have birdied the two par fives but looking back, all in all, I think it was a good day. There's 18 holes left to navigate and that's going to be my job tomorrow. Obviously I would love to get a win."

Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but has slumped to 442nd in the rankings after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form.

A missed cut in last week's French Open was his ninth in 12 events this season, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield bounced back from a front nine of 37 with four birdies in a row from the 11th and another on the 17th.

"There were a couple of poor swings early on but we dug in nicely," Willett said. "We had a nice little run on the back nine where we holed a few good ones and turned it round pretty quickly.

"A couple of the long-range putts were obviously bonuses but it was nice to see them go in and keep the momentum going because when you saw the leaderboard after a few holes we were a helluva long way back.

"It was nice to finish five shots back and there's still a lot to play for. When you've got such a big lead it's a tricky place to be."

Knox has also not given up hope of catching Van Rooyen, especially after surging through the field with a closing 65 in the French Open last week, the runners-up finish sealing his place in the Open at Carnoustie.

"He might be six ahead but only two or three people are ahead of me so numbers-wise, it's not that big a deal," Knox said. "If the guy that's leading keeps going, hats off, that's unbelievable, but Sunday is always much harder."

Defending champion Jon Rahm is eight shots off the lead after a 67 which included a front nine of 30, but tournament host Rory McIlroy is 13 adrift following a 72.

Day two report

Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn welcomed the return of the "Danny Willett of old" after witnessing the former Masters champion's heartening revival at first hand in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but has slumped to 442nd in the rankings after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form.

A missed cut in last week's French Open was his ninth in 12 events this season, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield added a second round of 70 to his opening 68 at Ballyliffin to lie just two shots off the halfway lead shared by Ryan Fox, Matthieu Pavon and Erik van Rooyen in the £5.3million event.

Sweden's Joakim Lagergren is a shot off the lead on seven under, with Willett joined on six under by compatriot Sam Horsfield and South African Zander Lombard.

Lee Westwood, who will be one of Bjorn's vice-captains in Paris in September, is a shot further back on five under, while tournament host Rory McIlroy is seven off the pace after a disappointing 73.

"It's been tough to see somebody that good struggle for that amount of time but today was the Danny Willett of old and it's nice to see," Bjorn, who carded a 71 to finish level par, told Press Association Sport.

"When you're in that situation the Ryder Cup and all those things are so far from your mind, you're working on a project that goes from day to day. Having two days like this is important, now comes the hard part of going the next two and enjoying it because you've done all the hard work to get back to here."

Willett is relieved to finally be injury free after back and shoulder problems, while he also struggled with a torn meniscus in his knee during the Italian Open, where he finished eighth, which almost forced him to withdraw from the US Open.

And although a late tee time on Saturday will mean missing England's World Cup quarter-final against Sweden, that might not be a bad thing given that at least one member of his family will be supporting the opposition.

"We'll have to get the television crew to keep us updated, but my mum is Swedish so she'll be cheering for them," Willett joked.

"It's nice to come out and hit the shots that you can see in practise and actually perform still under pressure when the clubs are in your hand and you're trying to obviously improve what you're doing. It's been a tough 18 months but I'm very happy to be playing nicely."

Westwood admitted missing the England game was a "nice problem to have" after withdrawing from the French Open with a shoulder problem during the second round at Le Golf National, venue for September's Ryder Cup.

"You can't take any teams lightly these days," Westwood said of England's chances of reaching the semi-finals. "We saw that in the last tournament against Iceland but they are as good players as any, they believe in their coach and their system and should stick to it if they can."

Defending champion Jon Rahm followed an opening 74 with a 69 to safely make the cut on one under par, but home favourite Padraig Harrington, who was a shot off the lead after a first round of 68, crashed out after taking 10 shots more on Friday.

The three-time major winner recovered from a double bogey on the 13th, caused by a lost ball off the tee, with birdies on the 16th and 17th, only to also double-bogey the last in a back nine of 40.

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