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Knox returns a new man after quiet PGA success

Opportunity will finally knock for Russell Knox in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open next month.

He never played in it when the championship was staged in his native Inverness over the past three years but a shift along the A96 to Royal Aberdeen is the next best thing.

"Even though I grew up in Inverness, I still grew up as an Aberdeen fan," said the Scot, who is now based in Florida. "Aberdeen is like my second home in Scotland so I'm looking forward to the trip."

What awaits Knox is a formidable challenge. The 28-year-old has not played Royal Aberdeen since he competed there during his days in the amateur scene nearly a decade ago but the abundant rigours of the venerable Balgownie links left a lasting impression.

"I last played it in the Scottish Strokeplay Championship in 2005," he recalled. "I remember it was typical Scottish weather: cold, wet and windy. It was extremely difficult. One of the first few holes is a par three and I was hitting a driver."

In this meteorological minefield of a country, we can only wonder what Mother Nature has up her sleeve for Scottish Open week but, whatever the weather, Knox is relishing the prospect of a first professional appearance on home soil. Acclimatising to the links game is part of the allure.

"I don't think I have played on a links course since 2007," he added. "I grew up playing Nairn Dunbar but the game in the United States is a lot different to links golf and I have adapted. I hit the ball slightly higher than I used to but I still try to hit Scottish shots now and again to keep it interesting. I almost see the lower shot first and the higher shot second so I can't wait to give it a blast."

The golfing weapons that Knox possesses in his armoury have certainly stood him in good stead. His quiet, yet highly impressive development on the other side of the Atlantic, from the US college circuit with Jacksonville University through the various levels of the professional game and on to the main PGA Tour, has been achieved largely under the radar but it remains a Scottish success story of sizeable significance.

He is currently the second highest Scot on the world rankings at No.99 and came close to knocking off a first PGA Tour victory earlier this season when he lost a three-man play-off, also featuring a certain Rory McIlroy, at the Honda Classic.

The fact that he has established a strong foothold on the toughest tour in the world speaks volumes for his drive and determination. "This year has been a breakthrough year for me," said the steady Knox, who has posted three top-10s in the current campaign and has missed only three cuts in 18 events.

"I'm seeing improvements in my game and I have become more and more comfortable playing on the PGA Tour against some of the best golfers over here.

"Obviously being runner-up at the Honda has been the highlight of my year. It was a great opportunity for me and it proves to me that I can win a PGA Tour event. I was never a great stand-out amateur player in Scotland and when I came over to the States to go to college I wasn't one of the top players but, since turning pro, I feel I have been able to progress as the levels have increased and I'm very proud of that.

"This has been a great year for me but I was hoping and expecting this would happen as I have put in a lot of effort. I hope my game progresses to a level where I could play both US and European tours as the bigger British names like Luke Donald and Ian Poulter do. I definitely plan on coming over and playing more in Europe if you guys will have me."

First things first, though. The Scottish Open is looming on the horizon and Knox is hoping for a happy homecoming. The anticipation is already building.

"I have never played in Scotland as a professional and the last time I was over there I was pretty much hopeless at golf so it is going to be nerve-wracking for me," he admitted. "My sister is a DJ on Clyde radio and I'm sure her job must be nerve-wracking too. At least nobody can see her, though . . . "

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