US Open: Can Russell Knox end Scotland's 89-year wait for a winner?

By Kenny CrawfordBBC Sport Scotland
Russell Knox
Russell Knox is the highest placed Scot in the world rankings at 25
2016 US Open
Venue: Oakmont Country Club, Pennsylvania Dates: 16-19 June
Coverage: Listen live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra from Friday and follow live text on the BBC Sport website from Thursday.

Russell Knox has his work cut out.

Not only is he the solitary Scot at the 116th US Open, he's trying to upset all odds and become the first Scottish winner of golf's second major of the year since 1927.

Edinburgh-born Tommy Armour was the victor 89 years ago after an 18-hole play-off versus Harry Cooper, although Armour had taken American citizenship by the time that success arrived.

Another Scot, Willie Macfarlane, had won in even more dramatic style 91 years ago, aged 35, winning after a gruelling play-off against the great Bobby Jones.

The routine four rounds at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts had not been able to separate the pair. Neither could the initial 18-hole play-off. Indeed, Macfarlane only pipped Jones by one stroke at the end of a further 18 holes to ensure Scotland trumped America.

Willie Macfarlane (second from left) receives the 1925 US Open trophy, with a handshake from Bobby Jones
Willie Macfarlane (second from left) receives the 1925 US Open trophy, with a handshake from Bobby Jones

Macfarlane - from Aberdeen - was following on from a glut of Scottish success at the US Open.

North Berwick's Willie Anderson - who won in 1901, 1903, 1904 and 1905 - is one of only four players to have lifted its championship trophy four times, along with Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. No-one other than Anderson, who died at the age of 31, has triumphed in three successive years.

There were other winners, too - James Foulis, Fred Herd, Willie Smith, Laurie Auchterlonie, Alex Smith, Alec Ross and Fred McLeod.

Willie Macfarlane
Macfarlane playing in the 1929 US Open

The 2016 tournament at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, begins on Thursday. Knox, who was born in Inverness but now lives in Florida, tees off with Americans Jason Dufner and Harris English at 13:24 BST.

And going into his sixth major, the 30-year-old feels he can compete.

"I'm ready to go and start doing well in these tournaments," Knox told BBC Sport.

"My game feels good and I'm confident, so I've just got to relax and try to enjoy it. I'm excited that we have an extremely difficult course.

"This course is going to be very unfair to everyone at times, so it's just whoever can deal with that the best."

Russell Knox
The biggest win of Knox's career came in China last year, when he won the WGC Champions trophy

With narrow fairways and fast, sloping greens - not to mention a sprinkling of devilish bunkers - Oakmont is known as one of the PGA Tour's toughest courses. The 288-yard par-three eighth hole backs up that ominous reputation.

But one person who really fancies Knox's chances is the man who finished joint top (in 27th place) out of the five Scots competing at the 2015 US Open - Jimmy Gunn.

Gunn plays on the tour and will feature at the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart later this summer.

"I really do think he's got a good chance, the main reason being that he's deadly accurate," Gunn told BBC Scotland.

"He hits it dead straight and that's what you have to do there. Chambers Bay in 2015 was a little different. It was kind of wide open and you could get away with a little errant drive here and there.

Jimmy Gunn
Dornoch's Gunn finished joint top Scot at the 2015 US Open

"Oakmont's completely different. The rough is almost twice as thick and the fairways are narrower. He's so deadly off the tee and has pinpoint accuracy with the irons, so I think he'll do really well."

Knox's most prestigious victory to date was at the WGC Champions event in Shanghai in 2015 and Gunn believes performances like that have matured his friend's all-round game.

"Oh, 100%," he said. "The more times you put yourself in that position to win tournaments, the more comfortable you get.

"I mean how many times has he come second or lost in a play-off or something. It's great for his confidence and I think he'll do really well this week."

Armour's victory in 1927 came, interestingly, at Oakmont.

If the trophy was to be lifted by Scottish hands ever again, how Knox would love it to be his.

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