June 21, 2017 / 4:24 PM / 7 months ago

Defending champion Knox seeks River Highlands lift

(Reuters) - Russell Knox may have endured a dip in form since his career-best season last year but he was in an upbeat mood for his title defence at this week’s Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut.

The Scotsman captured the only two PGA Tour titles of his career last season and started the 2016-17 campaign with top-10 finishes in Malaysia, China, and Mayakoba.

He has since struggled, however, and now hopes to draw on happy memories at TPC River Highlands.

“I haven’t played nearly as good as I expected to. But at the same time, I almost expected it (a dip) coming off last year, my best year as a pro by a long way,” Knox, who will tee off with twice Travelers winner Bubba Watson and Australian Marc Leishman in Thursday’s opening round, told reporters.

”So maybe it was inevitable that it was going to be a slight downwards turn. But recently my game feels pretty good.

“All in all, I‘m excited to be here, and hopefully this year the Travelers Championship can get me going a good kick start to a big summer.”

Knox, who missed the cut at last week’s U.S. Open, will be among a star-studded field headed by world number three Rory McIlroy, Australian Jason Day, two-times major winner Jordan Spieth and Watson.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, who also missed the cut last week at Erin Hills in his first event back from a month-long layoff with a niggling rib problem, will be making his Connecticut debut on a par-70 layout that should suit his style of play.

Birdies will be especially crucial to success this week given that the tournament has produced a winning score of 10 under or lower every year since 1994.

No other golfer in the field knows more about going low at TPC River Highlands than Jim Furyk, whose final-round 58 last year is the lowest round ever on the PGA Tour.

The 17-times PGA Tour winner will be joined in Connecticut by another member of the sub-60 club in world number 12 Justin Thomas, who enters the week in great form.

In addition to three wins this season, Thomas has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, including a share of ninth place at the U.S. Open, and leads the PGA Tour in birdie average and is fourth in scoring average.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis

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