Russell Knox in exalted WGC company as Paul Lawrie makes Ryder Cup plea

Scotland's Russell Knox is now based in Jacksonville, Florida
Scotland's Russell Knox is now based in Jacksonville, Florida

Nice guys sometimes finish first.

Russell Knox propelled himself into golf's winners' circle in Shanghai in November 2015 when he became the only Scot ever to triumph at a World Golf Championship event.

The four WGC tournaments are behind only the four majors in terms of importance and on Thursday the Inverness-born player tees off in another one - the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

Knox, ranked 26 in the world, will be in fine company at 16:48 BST - out with world number one Jason Day and world number eight Adam Scott.

Those two Australians are also reigning champions in WGC events, though Irishman Shane Lowry is the man who holds the title at this one in Akron, Ohio.

Knox, 31, took up European Tour membership for the 2016 season in order to be eligible for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in September.

Russell Knox with the winner's trophy after victory at the WGC Champions event in China
Russell Knox with the winner's trophy after victory at the WGC Champions event in China

And although the Florida-based golfer currently lies outside the nine automatic picks - he is 20th on the World Points List, and 30th on the European Points List, there is still time to pick up the points required to make the team. Another fine showing at a WGC event would help.

One man eager for Knox to make Europe captain Darren Clarke's dozen to take on USA is 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, a veteran of two Ryder Cups and one of Clarke's vice-captains at Hazeltine.

"The biggest thing about him is he's a really, really nice guy who works very hard," Lawrie told BBC Scotland.

"I like him and he's obviously a hell of a player. I played a practice round with him at the US Open and he really impressed me with his ball striking.

"But I personally would like Russell in the team because it would be nice to have a Scotsman in there fighting for the European cause and hopefully he'll make it.

"You'd hope he'd be pulling out all the stops to try and get in the team. Even if he doesn't get in the team [automatically] then he'll know that Darren's got three captain's picks."

Paul Lawrie representing Europe at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah
Paul Lawrie represented Europe at the 1999 and 2012 Ryder Cups, the latter at Medinah

Lawrie might seek to impart some of those sentiments in person at Castle Stuart next week, where Knox will a major attraction at the Scottish Open being staged a few miles from his native Inverness.

"I'd love to play nine practice holes with him, but he's obviously going to be busier than me because that's his homecoming," he added. "He'll be a boy in demand.

"What better than to win the Scottish Open in your hometown, for him it would be a fairy tale."

Lawrie's own ambitions are currently severely restricted by a niggling foot problem that refuses to go away.

"As soon as I hit 100 balls, my foot's just in total bits," he explained. "I can't hit any more. I've always been a golfer that, when I work hard, it gets better.

"I've got a bone spur on my foot and a cyst. It's kind of been bugging me for a while and it's getting worse.

"It's horrible when you don't play well and you're playing with guys beating you week in and week out. I don't like that."

Monty 'back to his brilliant, grumpy best'

Lawrie was cheered, however, by the news of fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie qualifying for this year's Open at his home course of Royal Troon.

"It's brilliant to see him get through," he added. "He obviously played a lot of golf there (at Royal Troon) and grew up there with his father being the secretary.

"I think everyone in Scotland got a big boost from that. I was watching some of the coverage and there was quite a few people walking round with him.

"He looked back to his brilliant, grumpy best at a couple of points - which was good to see! But for the tournament it's a massive boost; coming off the Champions Tour, where he plays all of his golf now, and still being able to come home and play links golf and get through a tough qualifying day."

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