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Power of positive thinking - and a move to the US - have paid off big time for Knox

Have a flick through the channels on the telly these days and the schedules are often packed to the gunwales with gurus; those handwringing, tutting and nagging know-it-alls of food and fashion who seemingly live a self-satisfied life of unbridled contentment while we members of the humdrum masses bounce around cluelessly like tranquilised cows on the dodgems.

Russell Knox at the Honda Classic, where he reached a play-off for the top prize. Picture: Getty
Russell Knox at the Honda Classic, where he reached a play-off for the top prize. Picture: Getty

If they're not rifling through the swill in your fridge and shrieking in your face that "you are what you eat" then they're rummaging around your wardrobe and cackling in your ear as they unearth a fraying old semmit that wouldn't look out of place draped over the hunched shoulders of a medieval serf.

In the world of golf, the gurus tend to operate in the quieter recesses of the head, massaging the thinking processes and injecting a kind of positive lubricant to those grinding cranks, pulleys and pistons of negativity that can overwhelm the mind. Yes, mental fortitude, self-belief and confidence are valuable weapons in the armoury and Russell Knox seems to have them in spades.

He may have lost in a four-man play-off at the PGA Tour's Honda Classic on Sunday night but the Inverness exile certainly gained a lot. "Almost did it; more importantly I found out I can," tweeted Knox in the wake of his brush with glory at the highest level.

Opportunity continues to knock for the Scot and the strides he has made in recent years have been remarkable. One of the criticisms we tend to have of some of our home hopefuls is that they perhaps lack that sense of assurance and have a tendency to deliver the kind of hangdog, downbeat assessments of their fortunes that would make Dad's Army's Private Frazer look like a beacon of glowing optimism.

Knox, whose sterling efforts at the weekend earned him $450,000 and lifted him to 119th in the world rankings, making him third-highest Scot, cannot be accused of that.

As a follower of the positive thinking teachings of Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, Knox has been schooled in the Vision 54 philosophy of striving for a birdie on every hole, unlike us crude hackers who faff about trying to sneak a jammy birdie every 54th hole.

Knox came close to pulling it off last season when he shot a 59 during a Web.com Tour event and his focused, can-do approach continues to reap rewards. Perhaps he is also benefiting from making a steady progression far away from the peering eyes of the golfing media in his homeland.

We are fortunate in this country that the amateur game continues to command decent coverage and there remains an enthusiasm from the regular writers to champion new talent but that can have its own drawbacks.

In a small pool, being tipped as Scotland's next big thing, while all the time appearing as the main attraction at press days and sponsorship announcements in an increasingly professional amateur scene, can add its own burdens. Of course, those with lofty aspirations know this comes with the territory but at times it could be a too much, too soon, distraction. Knox, like Martin Laird before him, has developed largely under the radar and his formative years spent across the water - he was a successful college golfer at Jacksonville University before making his mark on the professional mini-tours in the US and then working his way up to the top tier - were not accompanied by a regular fanfare.

In an email exchange between Knox and this correspondent after his Nationwide Tour win (now the Web.com Tour ) in 2011, he was in no doubt about the benefits of chasing the American dream.

"I really can't see how anyone stays in Scotland to pursue a career," he said at the time. "You can work on your game all year round here and play for money all year. That's the only way you can improve in my opinion."

Knox has improved since then. The 28-year-old lost his full status at the end of his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2012 but has bounced back stronger than ever. He juggled competition on both the main Tour and the second-tier circuit last year and regained his full card by finishing sixth in the Web.com Tour Championship.

Having hammered down solid foundations by making his first four cuts in the early events of the 2014 schedule, Knox upped the ante with a tie for 10th in January's Farmers Insurance Open before holding his own admirably in exalted company at the Honda event to flirt with victory on the world's strongest tour.

"I feel like I've started to earn respect from other players," Knox said. "That's the biggest thing; to be able to walk out on that practice green and feel in your gut like you belong."

In this stomach-churning, mind-mangling game, Knox continues to prove he has a head for heights.

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