RBC Heritage: Q&A with Players Am Champ Philip Knowles
11 Apr 2018
by Sean Martin of AmateurGolf.com

see also: , Philip Knowles Profile

Philip Knowles tees off on #18 of Harbour Town in preparation for the RBC Heritage
Philip Knowles tees off on #18 of Harbour Town in preparation for the RBC Heritage

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (April 11, 2018) - There are two amateurs in the field for this week’s PGA TOUR event, the RBC Heritage. Doc Redman, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, is playing Harbour Town Golf Links one week after competing at Augusta National. He’s joined by University of North Florida junior Philip Knowles, who is playing his first PGA TOUR event. Knowles won last year’s Players Amateur, shooting a final-round 64 to overcome a four-shot deficit before beating Redman’s Clemson teammate, Bryson Nimmer, in a playoff.

“You dream of this,” Knowles said after the win. “You dream of going out there and playing one of the best rounds of your career.”

Knowles enters the RBC Heritage on a high note after winning the Furman Intercollegiate on March 25. It was the second victory of his college career. He is coming off a fourth-place finish Sunday at the Cabarrus County Irish Creek Intercollegiate. He is ranked 28th in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Amateur Rankings, and 48th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Knowles also has played in three U.S. Amateurs (2014-16) and earlier this year finished fifth in the Master of the Amateurs at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

He’ll use the same caddie, Toby Ragland, this week as he did at the Players Amateur. Ragland was teammates with Billy Horschel at the University of Florida, and beat Horschel to win the Gator Invitational. Ragland works for College Golf Fellowship after serving as an assistant coach at the University of Central Florida.

AmateurGolf.com caught up with Knowles before he made his PGA TOUR debut. He is scheduled to tee off at 8:50 a.m. Eastern on Thursday with Ollie Schniederjans and Martin Flores.

AMATEURGOLF.COM: What have been the highlights thus far?

KNOWLES: It was really cool getting to go through the Titleist tour van and getting to see the ins and outs and the ability those guys have to build exactly what guys need to succeed. It’s incredible. I played nine holes with Zach Johnson on Tuesday. He’s a guy I’ve grown up trying to model my game after. Neither of us is going to overpower a golf course. We are going to win by making fewer mistakes and finding fairways and greens. That was neat. I went to the PGA TOUR’s Fellowship on Tuesday. That was maybe the coolest experience, getting to see that there’s a group of guys out there who really care for each other beyond golf and just the casual hello. They’ll actually ask you questions and ask you about your life. To know that’s out there is really comforting.

AMATEURGOLF.COM: How would you describe your game, for people who haven’t seen you play?

KNOWLES: Unimpressive (laughs). I hit it 275 off the tee with a little fade. I drive the ball very well and then I go hit a lot of greens. The first round at Furman, I hit 14 fairways and 18 greens to shoot 66. I didn’t think about it much. It just kind of happened. I usually hit 14-15 greens. I wedge it well. It’s similar to Zach Johnson. I wedge it well and drive it straight. I’m a good putter, and then there are days I’m a really, really good putter.

AMATEURGOLF.COM: You weren’t aware that a spot in the Heritage was at stake at the Players Amateur, correct?

Philip Knowles with Players amateur trophy
Knowles' Players Amateur win got
him into the RBC Heritage
KNOWLES: For some reason, I thought they had taken the exemption away. I somehow missed it in all the information they gave us. I didn’t look at leaderboards during the final round. On the first day, I shot 3 under on my front nine and I looked at the leaderboard and saw that I was leading. I shot 2 over on the back nine and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m not going to look at leaderboards all week.’

We were in the middle of the 17th fairway when the rain delay hit (the final round was delayed more than 3 hours by storms). I stayed away from my phone and didn’t look at the leaderboard. I just watched golf on TV. After two hours, I was like, ‘I have to get out of here.’ I went back to the house to get on my foam roller and stretch to kill time. Once I left, the governor came into the clubhouse and he was talking about how proud they were of the event and how the winner gets into the Heritage. I didn’t hear anything about that. I thought I was just playing for the win and not to get in a PGA TOUR event.

When I made the putt to win the playoff, Toby said, ‘Dude, you just earned your way into your first TOUR event.’ I said, ‘Shut up. What are you talking about?’ He had known the entire week and didn’t tell me.

AMATEURGOLF.COM: You played well at the Master of the Amateurs and are having a strong college season. Is there anything you feel like you’ve improved?

KNOWLES: I think everything has gotten a little bit better. My confidence has grown. A huge part of playing well is being able to play good golf when you don’t have your best stuff. I’ve been able to do that for the most part. My mental game, my ability to play my way around a golf course, to know where my misses are, to prepare ahead of time, to control my ball, have all gotten better in the past year. I used to think I was bigger than I was. I used to hit shots I didn’t need to hit. I used to think I could hit 5-iron to a pin that’s four paces off the left, whether I was swinging well or not. Now I understand that pars are good. If I’m not hitting it well, I’ll hit the middle of the green and two-putt. It’s patience. I used to get so frustrated if I was nine holes into an event and even par even though I’d hit eight greens. Now it’s a mentality that I know I will get hot at some point in 54 holes or 72 holes.

Winning the Players Amateur was huge for my self-belief. It’s one of the top 15 amateur events in the world. You know there are guys in that field who are going to be on the PGA TOUR. To beat them all was huge.

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