But beginning at No. 9, it was a whole different ballgame for him at the 73rd PGA Championship.
Knox eagled the 525-yard par 5 by knocking in a sand wedge approach from 45 yards out.
Then, he birdied the 10th. Two holes later, he hit another eagle, again
from the fairway, when his 5-iron from 168 yards away rolled in on a 395-yard par 4.
Following one more bogey at the 14th, Knox carded birds at the next three holes, and finished with a 5-under total of 67, and a share of the lead, along with Masters champion Ian Woosnam, of Wales, after one round of the tragedy- marred, rain-delayed tournament.
Both Knox and Woosnam (six birdies, one bogey) were in by the time a fatal electrical storm blew in, killing one spectator.
Knox navigated the last 10 holes in an incredible 7-under, even with that third bogey. Quite a turnaround, indeed. One he couldn't fully explain.
"Maybe somebody was saying some prayers for me," said Knox, who ranks 39th on the money list this season, with three Top 10 finishes in his last six appearances. "I think that putt on 8 had a calming effect over me. It kind of gave me a new outlook. Because at that point, I was falling out of it, quickly. And then, suddenly, boom, my name's up there on the leader board.
"Sure, I was a little lucky. But I also had to hit it pretty good to get it that close. And I did not putt up to my standards. The longest one I made all day was about 12 feet. Usually, I expect to make a lot inside the 20-foot range. But by the same token, I didn't feel as if I left a whole lot of shots out there, under the circumstances."
So off this pleasantly surprising start, how would Knox, who has won on the PGA Tour three times since joining it in 1982, rate his chances?
"Very shaky," Knox said, with a smile. "I'm sure there aren't a lot of guys out there worrying about Kenny Knox, I promise you. They're only concerned about their own games, and beating the golf course.
"I'm not known for distance or accuracy. I'm steady, not flashy. When somebody yells 'one-putt,' my head turns around. But I'm starting to hit the ball better and putting it closer to the pin than I ever have in my life.
"In that respect, I'm not so excited about this score as I am about the fact that I continued to show signs of being a solid performer out here. I would just love to stay in the red (under par) numbers somewhow. And when Sunday comes around on the back nine, if I'm still there, then I'll try to win the tournament."
Four players were tied for second place, one shot back at 4-under 68: Bruce Lietzke, Craig Stadler, Ken Green and Sandy Lyle.
Six more were bunched at 3-under 69, including two-time PGA champ Raymond Floyd. Thirteen were three off the pace after carding 70s, led by three-time U.S. Open champ Hale Irwin, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.
In all, 35 players managed to break par, thanks in part to the fact that many of the tees were moved up, so the course didn't play to its listed length of 7,289 yards. Thirteen people matched level 72.
Because of the rain delay, 27 players did not complete their first round yesterday, including Dan Sieckmann, who was at 4-under with two holes left, and Larry Mize, 3-under with three holes remaining.
Curtis Strange and Ben Crenshaw withdrew after shooting 81 . . . Three other eagles were recorded, all on par 5s, by Scott Bentley (No. 9), Scott Hoch and Lanny Wadkins (both at the 15th) . . . Of local interest, Conestoga High School product Brett Upper, now a club pro in Clearwater, Fla., had 74, Jim Masserio, the pro at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, also had 74, as did Greg Farrow, the assistant pro at Burlington (N.J.) Country Club. Stu Ingraham, from Overbrook Country Club in Philadelphia, is at 1-under through 13 holes. And Edgmont's Ed Dougherty, who is a solid 60th on the money list, is even through 14 . . . Today's forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms. But the remainder of the weekend looks good . . . The Daily News pick (and the pick of many here), Fred Couples, opened with a less- than-awe-inspiring 74. That is the same score turned in by reigning U.S. Open champ Payne Stewart and Ian Baker-Finch, who won the British Open three weeks ago but has been bothered by back problems this week.