Coloradan Jim Knous goes out on a high note, notching top-30 finish at PGA Tour’s WM Phoenix Open to cap his career as a full-time player; next up: a job at Ping
By Gary Baines – 2/11/2024
Looking back, the 2010 CGA Amateur was one of the most memorable Colorado state amateur championships in the 21st century, given who won and what transpired down the stretch.
In that event at Boulder Country Club, Denver native Wyndham Clark prevailed as a 16-year-old, becoming the youngest champion at that tournament since 1971. He emerged with the trophy after sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff.
But the only reason the Valor Christian High School student had to go overtime was because then-Colorado School of Mines golfer Jim Knous rallied from 10 behind with a 10-under-par 60 in the final round to force the playoff. That set the course record at BCC — by two strokes.
Fast forward 13 1/2 years, and Clark, fresh off his third victory on the PGA Tour, was inside the top 10 going into Sunday’s final round of the WM Phoenix Open, being contested in the town where he now lives, Scottsdale. And Knous, a one-time PGA Tour regular who is wrapping up his career as a full-time player, Monday qualified to get into the field in Scottsdale, but added to the moment by making the 36-hole cut. (Making the cut under the circumstances is no small feat as a little over one in four Monday qualifiers advance to the final two rounds.)
And, to take it up one notch further, Knous birdied fourof his last six holes on Sunday, capping it off with a 7-foot birdie on No. 18 — shown on NBC. That gave the Aspen native a 28th-place finish after closing with a 3-under-par 68. It was Knous’ best PGA Tour showing since a 25th place at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open.
“I’ll never forget it,” Knous told NBC on Sunday afternoon. “What a finish. That was a lot of fun. Four birdies in the last six. I was so happy. I had all the family following along today. It was incredible.
“We had an incredible week. I was so happy to be here. What a fantastic venue. The crowds were incredible.
“Professional golf is incredible, but it’s hectic. It’s hard. It’s trying at times. But what a great week this was. “
Asked earlier in the weekend if his situation helped him perform well this week, Knous said, “Subconsciously (it) probably freed me up a little bit. I said, ‘Well, you know, let’s swing for the fences here. If not, go to work in a month.’”
Clark has hit it big on the PGA Tour — he’s won three times since May 1 and is now ranked No. 6 in the world. After going 65-66 while going bogey-free in rounds 2 and 3 in Scottsdale, he carded a double bogey on No. 2 in Sunday’s final round, shot 75 and ended up in 41st place.
By the way, that gave Knous the edge on Clark at the Phoenix Open — by two strokes.
Knous being interviewed on NBC on Sunday.
For Knous, who grew up in Basalt and has lived in Littleton in recent years, the Phoenix Open marked his 44th PGA Tour start, but first in 18 months. And he earned his first official PGA Tour money since the 3M Open in July 2022.
For the record, Knous’ 28th-place finish was good for a $52,995 check. That gives the 34-year-old $875,510 in official PGA Tour earnings in his career.
Knous was a regular on golf’s top circuit in the 2018-19 and the 2021-22 seasons. Ironically, his best PGA Tour finish came in his first start as a member — a 10th place in the 2018 Safeway Open. But wrist surgery several years ago and back problems presented some major hurdles in the years since.
This all is notable because later this month Knous will start a new job — his first full-time gig other than as a player — as a fitting and education engineer at Ping, a company he has long represented as a player.
Knous reacts to holing out a bunker shot on Friday.
But before starting that next chapter, Knous Monday qualified for the Phoenix Open, earning one of the three spots available by shooting a 7-under-par 64 at Pinnacle Peak Country Club, then advancing through a four-for-three playoff.
At the Phoenix Open itself, Knous holed out twice from off the green in round 2 — his ninth hole via a 42-foot bunker shot and his 15th thanks to a 46-foot chip-in — en route to a 5-under-par 66. All told, he finished 8 under par for the week, not bad considering he was 2 over par for his first five holes. To add to the experience, Knous had Mines head coach Tyler Kimble caddying for him in Scottsdale. And all week, Knous was clearly savoring the moment, interacting with fans and encouraging reaction.
All in all, it was a darn good way to wrap up a full-time playing career as a pro that started in 2012 after he finished second — in a playoff — at the NCAA Division II national championships.
“It’s been a long 12 years,” he said on Saturday. “That’s for sure. It’s flown by fast. Yeah, mini tour golf, Korn Ferry Tour. I was on the Web.com Tour. The first event I played was on the Nationwide Tour. I was on the Web.com Tour, Korn Ferry Tour again, now nothing (status-wise. But) PGA Tour, Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened. It’s been a hard road. It’s been fun at times. I’m just very blessed to have gone through what I’ve gone through.
“I definitely fulfilled some of my dreams. Obviously getting to the PGA Tour was one of my childhood dreams (and) a lot of people’s childhood dreams. Winning on the PGA Tour, winning majors, that was obviously a dream of mine. Obviously that’s not going to happen.
“But, yeah, I’m super proud and happy with what I’ve accomplished.”
Knous interacts with the boisterous fans at the Phoenix Open on Sunday.
In a full-circle moment, Knous made the cut and posted a top-30 finish at the same tournament where years ago he and college buddies were in attendance on occasion, being part of the mad rush of humanity that’s typical for this event.
But after losing his Korn Ferry Tour card at the end of 2023, Knous and his wife Heidi, who have three kids, discussed the path going forward.
“I played poorly. I had some back injuries at the end of the season,” Knous said. “Me and my wife sat down and had that discussion, you know, is it time to give it up? I have three kids, you know, and a lot going on in my life and I wanted to be around.
“When we did our accounting in 2022, I was gone 197 nights. That just wears on you as a person, as a dad. So we made the decision to try to look for other opportunities.
“We asked everybody I know, all the contacts I made through the years. Everyone at Ping has been family to me for 12-plus years and they’ve just been awesome. I know so many people there, and they decided to take a chance on me, which I’m super grateful for. … (It’s) a broad-scope position so I can branch out later once I maybe find out what I’m good at or what I like to do there.
“I start on February 26th. I got a cubicle. Let’s go.”
For all the scores for the WM Phoenix Open, CLICK HERE.
About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com