06 Mar 2024

Ryan Fox – Teeing Off & Ticking Boxes

By Will Kent

My first ever interview with Fox was back in the summer of 2022 when he had just climbed inside the top 50 of the world rankings for the first time in his career. Back then, he was enjoying a great spell of form. The Kiwi had recently won in Ras Al Khaimah, and should have also triumphed at the Dutch Open if it wasn’t for a messy double-bogey on the 72nd hole. He was on a surge to the top.

However, if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting it to last. I thought this was just a great spell in good career. We often witness how fragile form is in golf and even at the amateur level, it frequently feels like we are one swing away from either selling our clubs, or Googling how to qualify for The Open Championship. 

At the time of that first interview, Fox was – and still is – in his mid 30s. He’d been professional over a decade, and didn’t really strike me as the next ‘breakout’ star on the DP World Tour. Yes, he was playing well, but surely if he was destined for incredible things, shouldn’t they have happened by now?

Well, I was very wrong. Starting at the beginning of 2022, the big-hitting Kiwi progressed from being an accomplished DP World Tour professional to now; a Rolex Series winner playing for double-digits millions on the PGA Tour who wouldn’t shock the world if he won a Major.

“I’m pretty chuffed on last year,” said Fox when I asked him to review the last 12 months. “It was going to be a hard year to beat 2022, and I felt like for the most part I had a better year in ‘23 than ‘22. I ticked off every box that I wanted to tick off last year, and I’ve got some exciting stuff to look forward to this year as well.”

The New Zealander become a Rolex Series winner with his triumph at Wentworth last year

Ticking the box that read ‘beat Rory McIlroy to win at Wentworth’ must have been a sweet feeling. A share of second place at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship two weeks later must have been pretty nice as well. Results like this just weren’t common for him five years ago.

Fox’s seasons usually consisted of a few top 10 finishes with the odd look at winning an event here and there, while pocketing the best part of a million euros in prize money along the way. Unspectacular for the modern game, but still solid enough. But last year he won more than €3 million on the DP World Tour alone.

When I quizzed the four-time DP World Tour winner as to how he’s improved his results so quickly, he responded: “Honestly, I don’t really know. A little bit off the golf course. 

“After Covid, everything kind of settled down a bit. It’s felt much more normal, that helped a little bit. Travel wise it’s a lot more normal, I enjoyed the off-course stuff a lot more. Then, a lot of little things have come right. 

“I’m in a good place mentally, a good place family wise, and a good place coaching wise. All of those little things have helped, it doesn’t take much. 

“There’s not a big improvement needed necessarily in this game to get better. It’s only one or two percent here and there, and that’s what it’s been. I tidied up a couple of little things and that’s seemed to make quite a big difference.”

Green Jacket Hopes

Fox is also set take another trip to Augusta National next month in his quest of becoming the first New Zealander to ever win the Masters. Adding Augusta alongside St Andrews and Wentworth as venues you’ve won in your career would be a special box to tick off, too.

The Kiwi finished tied 26th last year on his debut despite illness and there’s a growing trend at the Masters that you need to be a longer hitter to win. Powerhouses Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka battled it out last year to reinforce that statement, and Fox also fits that style of golfer.

This year will be the Kiwi’s second appearance at the Masters

Obviously, there’s a lot more needed to win the first Major than the year than just distance off the tee. Just refresh your memory of Bryson DeChambeau’s poor performances there despite calling it a par 67. Every asset of your game clearly needs to be in shape, but you do also need length off the tee box. 

“Yeah, very much so,” added Fox when I asked if he’s looking forward to returning to Augusta. “I had pneumonia there last year on the weekend, so hopefully I don’t have to deal with that again this year! 

“You know, it’s just a dream come true to get to play that event. My wife missed it last year, she was 36 weeks pregnant at the time and couldn’t come. I’m chuffed to be able to go back and take her and the family, to let them enjoy the experience as well.”

PGA Tour Focus

In addition to another trip down Magnolia Lane, Fox will also spend the vast majority of 2024 teeing it up in the States. He secured full-time PGA Tour privileges following a fifth-place finish on the Race to Dubai Rankings last year, another highlight for his ever-improving CV.

While the DP World Tour has taken some criticism for this new incentive of the top 10 players gaining PGA Tour cards, it’s undoubtedly a good thing for world golf. A New Zealander playing permanently in America is great for the game’s image, and a reminder that this sport truly is international that has no barriers to entry.

Fox is looking to take the next step in his career by winning on the PGA Tour

“The PGA Tour is definitely my focus,” Fox explained. “I got a couple events under my belt earlier in the year in the Middle East on the DP World Tour as it’s a really nice way to start the year in Dubai. I’ll be over in the States for a decent spell now. After the win at the BMW PGA Championship last year it’s nice to have some guaranteed status so I can give the US a pretty good crack.”

As humble as ever with his answers, and equally as forthcoming with his time; Fox is one of the most likeable guys on Tour. He’s simply great to watch as well with one of the quickest pre-shot routines in the game with a swing speed to match. He’ll be hoping 2024 is another year of box ticking, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he checked the one reading ‘win at Augusta National’. Good luck to him. γ

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