Years ago PGA Tour veteran Ken Green observed that for most Tour players there is a stretch of six or seven weeks each year when they have enough game to be a factor. And they better win then, because the rest of the year will be mediocre. For most of 30-year-old Colt Knost’s professional career, he would have gladly taken those weeks, even if he never won. But in the past month, Knost appears to have stepped through the Green window.
While Jason Day was putting on a tour-de-force performance in dominating The Players Championship, Knost was quietly drafting the Australian to a tie for third, highlighted by a second-round 63. The T3 matched his career best in five-plus season’s on the professional circuit, and given the stature of the Players, was by far his finest professional moment.
On his next trip around the block at the Byron Nelson, he nearly matched his week in Florida with a tie for fourth. And as you might guess, it featured a second-round 63. The irony of Knost’s fabulous fortnight is it comes only a few weeks after he was told his 2016 season was over.
Knost, already with a history of health issues in his career, was told he had two ligament tears in his thumb. He later learned it was a small cyst at the heart of the issue, and after two weeks of rest, he started his recent run. His next outing at Colonial may be predictive. His only other consecutive top 10s in his career came at the Nelson and Colonial a year ago.
Colt Knost sounds like the name of a cowboy out of an old western, and Texas is written all over his background. He won a high school state championship in the state and migrated to SMU for his collegiate career. A decorated Mustang, Knost made his first big splash in the summer of 2007. In that year, Knost went on a USGA winning binge.
In July he won the U.S. Public Links, and followed with a U.S. Amateur title in August. He led the U.S. Walker Cup team to a win in September, going undefeated in his four matches. He stood atop the World Amateur rankings and made a difficult choice. With free passes into the Masters, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship in his pocket as an amateur, he chose to instead turn professional and try to play his way onto the PGA Tour.
It took him two years and a couple of Nationwide Tour wins to get to the big show, and that lasted only for one year. Hopscotching between the two tours over the next five seasons, he finally cracked the top 100 for the year in 2015 and knew where he was playing in the coming season.
“Coming out of college I was confident that I would have a pretty big career early. I spent my first year on the Web Tour and won twice early and got out here, and honestly took everything for granted. Kind of thought I could cruise and have a great career and I’d get out here and I’d win early and all that. It just didn’t work out that way. I didn’t put in the work I felt like I needed to, and I had to sit myself down a few years ago and kind of rethink things, if this was what I really wanted to do.”
He has also had to learn to accept where is talents lie on the golf course, and distance isn’t on that list.
“I mean, you go tee it up with Dustin Johnson, and he hits it 40, 50 by you, it’s like how are you supposed to compete with this? It’s tough,” he said heading into Colonial.
“I was constantly chasing distance. And ever since I stopped worrying about that, and don’t really care if I get it out there by them 50 yards, it’s been a huge help. It’s been a big relief. Because when I was first out here it was like I can’t compete with these guys. They hit it 40, 50 by me, but now I know I can drive them crazy when I hit a hybrid inside their 8-iron.”
His numbers this year put him at 198th in distance off the tee at 271 yards but second in driving accuracy. When he does get that “hybrid inside their 8-iron,” he has cashed in this season, ranking second in putting from inside 10 feet.
He knows at some time he will need surgery to have the cyst removed, but for now he is trying to ride the wave of recent success, to realize the view he always had of himself as a professional. “I know I have the game to play at the highest level, it’s just whether or not I wanted to take the time and the effort to do it. And I had to kind of rethink things and get back to work and put golf as a priority. I think the last couple years the results are starting to show a little more.”
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 32 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.