Russell Knox ties for seventh at Knoxville Sentinel Open
Russell Knox has been a dominant force on the NGA Hooters Tour since graduating from JU.

On Sunday, he took advantage of his exemption into the Knoxville Sentinel Open, carding a six-under par 66 in the final round at the Fox Den Country Club to tie for seventh place at 14-under par in the Nationwide Tour event. More importantly for Knox, his strong play has earned him a spot in next week’s Mylan Classic presented by CONSOL Energy.

“To get in the top 25 was good, but to finish in the top 10 is amazing,” Knox said. “I really got into the zone this week and played really well from tee to green. There were a lot of guys who have played on the PGA Tour the last 10 years and to beat them was really special.”

He earned his spot in the event by having the highest point total in “Race for Knoxville Exemption” on the NGA Hooters Tour, clinching his spot in the tournament by taking home an eight-shot victory at the Golf Strike Casino Golf Classic, posting back-to-back course records of 62 and 61.

“When I found out I had the exemption I was driving home from the event in Georgia and I think I was happier knowing I had this opportunity than when I won the previous week,” said Knox at the time. “I have played well on the Hooters Tour the past three years, but feel I am little behind the curve on playing on the Nationwide Tour… I just want to thank the Hooters Tour and the News Sentinel Knoxville Open committee for this opportunity.”

Entering his final round tied for 27th and seven shots behind leader Chris Kirk, Knox needed a strong round on Sunday to move into the top 25 to snag a spot in the next event on the Nationwide schedule.

So what does Knox do? Opens the round with a birdie on the par-5 first hole and proceeds to make two more birdies at Nos. 3 and 5 to get to three-under par for his round and at 11-under par for the event.

But he was just getting started. He had back-to-back birdies at Nos. 7 and 8 to get to five-under par for the round and into the top five at 13-under par.

His birdie on the par-4 11th got him to 14-under par and just one shot behind Kirk before the leaders teed off.

“When I got to 14, I felt like I had a chance to win the tournament if I could get to 18,” Knox said. “I was in the zone. I was hitting my irons solid and had simple gimmies for birdies.”

He finished his round with seven straight pars and signed for a six-under par, 66, and move into second place. Knox was passed late in the afternoon, but will get another shot next week in Canonsburg, Pa.

“I had some good looks down the stretch, hitting 8-iron, 9-iron and lob wedge into the green on the last few holes, but I didn’t get anything close, which would have been nice to put some pressure on the guys teeing off late,” Knox said.

A native of Scotland and now a Jacksonville resident, Knox made the cut easily by finishing in the top 20 entering the weekend at six-under par after rounds of 68 and 70.

Moving day was unkind to Knox, as he dropped from a tie for 12th to a tie for 27th after a two-under par 70 put him at eight-under par for the event, but had him seven shots out of the lead entering the final 18.

His consistent play throughout week was highlighted by Knox making just four bogeys in the events. He played the front nine at six-under par for the week, going eight-under par on the back nine, starting with a five-under par, 31, in the first round on Thursday.

This was the second Nationwide Tour start in Knox's career as he missed the cut in his first event after advancing through a Monday qualifier.

"I feel like I belong out here now and I have a lot of confidence," Knox said. "The work I've done with (former JU coach) Mike Fleming over the last year has really paid off. Every time I tee it up, I feel like I can beat anybody and that's a nice feeling to have."

Knox left JU as one of the most decorated golfers in program history, leading the Dolphins to the NCAA East Regional in 2006 and advanced to the Regional in 2007 as an individual. He finished his career with the lowest stroke average at JU since 1993 by having an average under par in each of his final two seasons.