- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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After Rory McIlroy won the Open Championship on Sunday, he was understandably asked about next year's Masters, where he'll have a chance to complete a career Grand Slam before his 26th birthday.
And in part of his answer, McIlroy singled out Augusta National member Jeff Knox, generally regarded as the club's best player and one who often serves as a noncompeting marker on the weekend when an odd number of players make the Masters cut.
"I've always been comfortable from tee to green at Augusta. And it's just taken me a few years to figure out the greens and figure out where you need to miss it and some different little shots that you might need that week,'' McIlroy said at Royal Liverpool. "I'll be going into Augusta next year pretty confident.
"It's a course that I, as I say, I feel comfortable off the tee and into the greens. If I can just figure out the greens a little bit more. What really helped me [this 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. I might have to take a couple of trips up before it next year and have a couple of practice rounds with him.''
McIlroy was first off on the Saturday of Masters week this past April because he was the last player in at the cut number of 4-over 148. With the odd number, Knox was summoned to play with McIlroy, and he showed him a few things.
Knox, 51, shot an unofficial 2-under 70, besting McIlroy's score of 71.
According to the Chronicle, McIlroy was so impressed by Knox that he sent him a letter a few weeks after the tournament and expressed interest in pre-tournament practice rounds.
"It says a lot about the young man,'' Knox told the newspaper. "It was quite an honor for him to say that. 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.''
Knox also said he's willing to help the Northern Irishman.
"I think in general there are a couple of greens out there you have to be careful with, or know they break a different way than it might appear," he told Press Association Sport. "I know that place pretty well, and if I can just help him [save] half a shot a day, that could be the difference. I would love to help him win a green jacket."
3hMike Fish and David Purdum