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Colt Knost's hot streak continues in Hawaii

HONOLULU -- Colt Knost begins his second round Friday at the Sony Open in Hawaii three strokes off the lead set by Canada's Graeme DeLaet and still feeling like he can roll 7s and 11s and hit blackjack at will.

And who cares if today is Friday the 13th, no less?

It's a feeling born of good fortune plucked from the pit of dyspeptic despair that golfers know only too well.

Knost, 26, of Dallas, didn't even expect to get into the season's first full field event on the PGA Tour this week at Waialae CC after being among the last men to earn his tour card last month at the National Qualifying Tournament in La Quinta, Calif. The numbers fell right. They have been of late.

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Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Just consider the manner in which Knost secured the card. Last month at Q-School he had walked off the last green in tears after making a double-bogey on the final hole at the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West. He fell to 8 under for the tournament, right on the cut line.

He thought he had blown his chance to regain his playing privileges. He thought he had joined the annals of heartbreak near-miss stories that are a usual element of the pressure-cooker 108-hole, six-day qualifying grind. Turned out, it was just good enough.

"I played well for 107 holes and then I had one whoops moment and it was almost disaster," Knost recalled, shivering at the thought while standing under a warm Oahu sun. "No one would have noticed if it hadn't happened on the last hole. It was tough, but it worked out. I got through it. And now I'm ready to try to prove I belong out here on this tour."

Related: Who are this year's PGA Tour sleepers?

He did a decent job in the first round Thursday, shooting a bogey-free 4-under 66 at Waialae CC. Having refined his swing and painfully eliminated his nearly full-swing "waggle," Knost hit nine fairways and 14 greens in a solid display of golf.

Knost took a gamble by making the first change a month before Q-School with the help of his longtime swing coach Randy Smith. He's worked hard getting his arms, body and the golf club in sync. "It was a change I had to make," he said. "I was tired of the inconsistency."

The second change was harder. Knost, who lost his card after making just 12 of 27 cuts and earning just $296,817 last year, had been taking a half- to full-swing waggle since he won the U.S. Amateur in 2007, but three weeks ago Smith urged him to ditch it because it was no longer a good trigger to his swing. He also was grooving a bad habit of moving his arms without rotating his body.

"That first tee shot was pretty iffy," Knost said. "I didn't know if I could do it."

Knost on several occasions talked about the luck he's been having of late: lucky to get in the Sony Open field, lucky to have survived his Q-School hiccup. And there have been other jackpots, too.

He traveled straight from PGA West to meet friends in Las Vegas, and they celebrated until 5 a.m. Knost played blackjack and craps and said he took the house at Planet Hollywood for a bit of extra travel money for this season.

"It was nice to get away and be able to joke about what happened," he said. "I told the guys I was going to win some cash after how lucky I got at Q-School, and sure enough I did pretty well. Then I slept for like three days after that it felt like. I was wiped out. But everything worked out OK, and I got what I wanted, which is another chance to prove that I can compete out here. So I guess I've been on a bit of a roll since then."

And that roll continued, at least for one round, at Waialae CC. But it wasn't luck.

"Yeah, bogey-free first round of the year is a great way to start, build some confidence right away," Knost said. "I did a lot of things well, and my front-nine could have been crazy low because I hit it close and had a lot of looks. I'm getting more comfortable each day. But overall, 4 under out of the gates, I'm pretty happy. Now just have to build on it."

-- Dave Shedloski
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