Colt Knost won twice on the Nationwide Tour last year.
Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images
Thursday, January 15, 2009

First there are the titles. As an amateur in 2007, Knost had one of the most charmed seasons in history, capturing the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship before leading the American team to a victory in the Walker Cup — amateur golf's version of the Ryder Cup. With that trifecta, Knost joined Bobby Jones (1930) and Jay Sigel (1983) as the only players to win three USGA events in a single season.

\nThe 23-year-old from Dallas is also atypical in stature. At five-foot-nine, 210 pounds (according to the media guide) he's certainly a bit more ... rotund than your average pro. A little paunch is never a problem with galleries — see fan favorites Jason Gore, Tim Herron, John Daly and Craig Stadler — which means Knost may find the crowd squarely in his corner should he play his way into some Sunday drama.

\nKnost also stands out from other rookies because of his unwavering poise. Put another way, he sounds like a veteran. Maybe it has something to do with the nine PGA events he played during the last two seasons through sponsors' exemptions. Reached by phone shortly before his PGA debut at the Sony Open, it's clear that Knost isn't exactly awestruck by his rise to the big leagues.

\n"It's honestly where I feel I belong, and I'm just ready to go," he says. "I love the atmosphere. Just to have the chance to play with Tiger and Phil and see how I stack up is just really exciting."

\nKnost will get his chance to measure himself against golf's big guns soon enough. But what really makes him stand apart from the rest of the PGA Tour rookie class is his top career goal. Ready for this? It doesn't involve winning a major.

\n"I love team sports, and I never experienced anything better than the Walker Cup," he says. "My No. 1 goal in my career is to make the Ryder Cup team, not win a major. There's nothing like representing your country. When you win as a team, it's just a great feeling."

\nHold on, right now we'll offer a green jacket or a Ryder Cup invite ...

\n"Ryder Cup."

\nThere is no hesitation.

\n"When you're a part of one of those teams," he continues, "there's nothing like it. Playing on a Ryder Cup team would mean I'm one of the top players in the world, and that would meet a lot of my goals."

\nKnost was a force during Walker week in Ireland, finishing 2-0-2. The rookie's desire to play more team golf doesn't come as a surprise to Buddy Marucci, who captained that victorious Walker Cup team and bonded with Knost.

\n"He's kind of a happy-go-lucky guy, but a fierce competitor on the course," Marucci says. "I think he really elevated himself that week. When you perform under pressure, you believe you can do it anytime. That certainly happened with Colt."

\nShortly after returning from Ireland, Knost turned professional, enrolled in Q-School and qualified for the 2008 Nationwide Tour. He won twice last year and finished sixth on the Nationwide money list, easily cracking the top-25 threshold for an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour in 2009. While the Walker Cup may have shaped his ultimate career goal, Knost still points to his two Nationwide victories from last season as a true foundation for future success.

\n"You're playing for your life out there — or at least to support yourself," he says. "It's arguably the third-best tour in the world. I won in two totally different ways, and I think it prepares me for this year. Winning anywhere is just great for your confidence."

\nFor Knost, self-belief is not in short supply. But check that resume again, and you find arguably the most decorated amateur — and the most prepared PGA rookie — since Tiger Woods. For his past success and unflinching confidence, Knost is our preseason pick for Rookie of the Year. Asked for his own ROY prediction, once again Knost doesn't hesitate.

\n"Can I pick myself?"

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