British Open champion Rory McIlroy was so impressed with Augustan Jeff Knox’s putting in the third round of April’s Masters Tournament that he sent him a letter saying he’d like to play “a couple of practice rounds” with him at Augusta National Golf Club before the 2015 event, Knox said Tuesday.
Knox, an Augusta National member, played with McIlroy as a noncompeting marker in the third round of April’s Masters, and beat McIlroy 70 to 71 that day.
Knox’s work on the greens gave McIlroy an insight on how to putt at Augusta National that he never had before, McIlroy said after winning the British Open at Royal Liverpool on Sunday.
In the letter, which Knox said came a “couple of weeks” after the Masters, he said McIlroy “mentioned he might want to come back and play a couple of practice rounds with me,” Knox said. “We shall see.”
Knox said he and McIlroy “had correspondence” and that he told McIlroy he would gladly play practice rounds with him.
Knox, 51, said the fact McIlroy wrote him at all “says a lot about the young man.”
The subject of Knox came up after the British Open when McIlroy was asked about the Masters, which is the last tournament he needs to win to complete the career Grand Slam. His best finish is a tie for eighth this year, thanks to a final-round 69 which might have been aided by watching Knox putt the greens the day before.
“I’ve always been comfortable from tee to green at Augusta,” McIlroy said. “And it’s taken me a few years to figure out the greens ... if I can just figure out the greens a little bit more. What really helped me last year was playing with Jeff Knox in the third round. He’s my amateur marker and he’s the best I’ve ever seen on Augusta’s greens.”
“It was quite an honor for him to say that,” Knox said. “I don’t know if shocked is the right word, but it was quite an honor. I happened to play good that day; I guess that helped.”
Indeed, after the third round McIlroy raved about Knox, who led McIlroy by three shots going to No. 18, which McIlroy birdied while Knox made bogey.
“He’s a great player,” McIlroy said at the time. “He played just like he should be playing in the Masters.”
Knox said Tuesday that McIlroy didn’t say much to him about his play after the round.
“But what I read in his interviews afterward, he had a lot of good things to say,” Knox said.