If you missed it – and it flew well below the wind-blown radar from Bermuda last week – the story of Jim Knous bears telling.
Let’s start with who Jim Knous (pronounced kuh-NOUSE) is.
He is a 31-year-old American who plays the PGA Tour and, to this point anyway, the most distinctive thing about him may be that he’s surely the only tour player to have attended college at the Colorado School of Mines, which isn’t known as a golf powerhouse but does make him an Oredigger (school colors are blue and silver).
You may remember that Knous held the 54-hole lead in the Fortinet Championship, the wraparound season opener played in Napa, California, in September, though he faded to a T11. If you know that, congratulations on spending an inordinate amount of time following the PGA Tour.
As to why Knous matters now:
He showed up last week in Bermuda – a typically gorgeous place that turned into a Weather Channel special during the Butterfield Bermuda Championship – needing to finish T67 or better to win enough FedEx Cup points (3.516 for those keeping score at home) to secure his conditional status on the PGA Tour for another season.
To be fair, that’s not big news outside the Knous family but it’s how he did it – spoiler alert, he finished T57 – that makes the story compelling.
“Greatest top-60 of all time,” is how Knous described it, understandably caught up in the moment.
He may be right.
For background, Knous had played only 25 PGA Tour events in his career when he landed in Bermuda. He suffered a serious wrist injury in 2019 that required surgery and shut him down for months.
He returned to competitive golf in June 2020 and proceeded to miss 13 cuts in 18 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour. By the grace of a medical exemption, Knous had two events to make enough FedEx Cup points to retain his PGA Tour privileges (conditional status should allow him 18-20 starts) and full Korn Ferry privileges for the next year.
Professional golf is a hard job made impossibly difficult without places to play.
Knowing his livelihood was at stake, Knous started the Butterfield Bermuda Championship by making seven bogeys in his first eight holes at windswept Port Royal Golf Club. Enough to make a grown man cry.
Knous hung on, however, and managed to shoot 76 on Thursday. He didn’t need to win. He just needed to get to the weekend and go from there.
“Obviously had a bad round one and fought my butt off that round two just to make the cut, just to have the chance at getting my card back or getting conditional status back,” Knous said.
Knous shot 66 on Friday and 69 on Saturday, putting him in position to accomplish his goal.
Of course, nothing like that comes easily.
“I was running through all the scenarios in my head, which is exactly what you don’t want to do, but it’s hard to block those out. Once that first tee ball was in the air, it was game time, everything kind of pushed to the back in my mind, so I was just able to focus on golf.” – Jim Knous
With the wind and rain intruding again, Knous got off to a bad start, making four bogeys in his first eight holes on Sunday.
“Just dug myself into a deep hole. Your mind kind of goes all the wrong places, but I just said, you know, I just told myself we’re going to do this. I just kept fighting and just proud to have done it,” Knous said.
“The emotions were going crazy today. I was running through all the scenarios in my head, which is exactly what you don’t want to do, but it’s hard to block those out. Once that first tee ball was in the air, it was game time, everything kind of pushed to the back in my mind, so I was just able to focus on golf.”
When we’re watching Dustin Johnson or Jon Rahm or Tony Finau doing what they do, it’s easy to believe the PGA Tour is one success story stacked atop another one. It’s all courtesy cars, free equipment and endorsement deals.
There’s plenty of that, to be sure, but until a player cracks the top 50 in the world rankings, it can be a hard life. Each week is an unsparing look at a player’s reality.
There are more players like Knous – very good but not great – than there are megastars. They are the players who make the tour what it is and when you hear the best players talking about how deep the pool of talent is, they’re talking about guys like Knous.
So back to Bermuda.
Knous reached his 18th hole on Sunday tied for 61st position and had a small cushion should he bogey the finishing hole. Having come that far, Knous finished in style, making a deuce on his closing par-3.
“I had no idea really what was going to happen,” Knous said. “I knew making birdie would be great and would vault me up the leaderboard a little bit.
“I saw T61 on the tee when I teed off, so I said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ I said, ‘Let’s make a par and I’m going to try to make this birdie putt just like any other putt, I’m going to try to make it.’ Luckily, rolled it in. I was so ecstatic to see it go in. And relief, too. A lot of relief.”
Knous keeps a tag on his golf bag with a photo of his wife, Heidi, and their two children, one more reminder that he’s playing for more than a paycheck.
“Job’s not done,” Knous said. “Obviously conditional status, the ones I get in I have to be ready and I plan to be ready and go low and have chances.”
After a deserving celebration.
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