Why Australians should be cheering on Europe in Rome this month.

Let’s be honest… Australians don’t need a dog in the fight to enjoy the Ryder Cup; long ago we recognised it as one of the biggest events not only in golf, but world sport. TV ratings every two years reflect that. It’s a behemoth and many in golf see it as sitting above the US Open and PGA Championship when it comes to our game’s must-watch events.

But if there’s one ‘player’ we can cheer on in Rome this month, it’s a humble bloke called Shay Knight, who caddies for Europe’s ever-popular Viktor Hovland. 

Knight hails from the north shore of Sydney and was an excellent player as a teenager. He joined the junior program at The Australian Golf Club, and it was on those pristine fairways near Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport that he befriended Matt Jones, who was clearly the cream of the crop. Jones went on to play, and win twice on, the PGA Tour before leaving to join LIV Golf where he plays on Cameron Smith’s Ripper GC team.

It was that friendship with Jones that would change the course of Knight’s life. “[Jones] went over to ASU (Arizona State University) to pursue his college, and I stayed back in Australia, did what I did, and then he got on the Nationwide Tour,” Knight recalls. “He was on the Nationwide for three or four years, and even though he’s such an unbelievable talent, he was struggling and asked if I wanted to come over and just help him out [by caddieing]. The next year he got his PGA Tour card, and the rest is history. It’s crazy.”

The craziest part of Knight’s PGA Tour caddie timeline didn’t come for several years. After a five-year stint with Jones and another Sydneysider, Aron Price, Knight looped for PGA Tour regulars like Chez Reavie, Jerry Kelly and Sean O’Hair. In 2019, he got the opportunity of a lifetime. An exciting young Norwegian named Viktor Hovland needed a caddie ahead of turning pro and his management agency, Wasserman, connected him with Knight after several recommendations unanimously described Knight as hard working, funny, positive and an excellent green reader. Hovland was sold, and Knight was beyond excited to be carrying for the Oklahoma State University star, who was one of the world’s brightest amateur talents. Hovland had broken Jack Nicklaus’ US Open scoring record for an amateur (282) at the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach, only a year after winning the US Amateur Championship at the same iconic California course. The Oslo golfer had finished as the US Open’s low amateur only two months after earning the same honour at the Masters (where he tied for 32nd).

Knight’s first week with Hovland was the 2019 Travelers Championship, and since then the Aussie looper has been there for every milestone, including Hovland’s four victories on the PGA Tour, two on the DP World Tour, including last year’s Dubai Desert Classic; and two wins at Tiger Woods’ unofficial tournament, the Hero World Challenge. 

“Viktor is an unbelievable talent and deserves to be where he is,” Knight says. “He’s definitely a more complete player now; his short game has come on in leaps and bounds. I truly believe he’s going to be one of the anchors of the European team this year.”

Knight predicts he’ll be a busy man in Rome. 

“I think they’ll play Viktor every single match because he’s younger and in great form… they’re going to depend on him for the workload and for points,” he says. “Viktor is a great putter and to win matches you need to hole putts at critical times, which Viktor can.”

Hovland didn’t have a great Ryder Cup debut in the US at Whistling Straits in 2021. He didn’t win any of his matches and wound up with an 0-3-2 record. But he’s a far more complete player now, with a stronger short game under coach Joe Mayo. Knight has no doubts his man will handle both the pressure of a Ryder Cup being held in Italy for the first time and the tricked-up course at host venue Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.

“We played the Italian Open at Marco Simone and while the course is… interesting… Rome itself is absolutely amazing and the atmosphere is going to be electric,” Knight says. “I never thought I’d get the chance to caddie in a Ryder Cup but hoped I would. The first time I walked into the team room, I’ll never forget the sound of the clapping and the energy. Now it’s going to be that, but in Rome. I can’t wait to help Viktor and the European team in any way I can.

“Not bad for an Aussie caddie.” 

Getty images: Andrew Redington