Perth, Australia: It shapes as the last piece of the puzzle for Ryan Fox to join world golf’s elite. But first the 32-year-old Kiwi needs to rewrite his wedding speech.
A two-time winner on both the Australasian and Challenge Tour, Fox broke through for his first European Tour and Asian Tour title with a commanding win over Spain’s Adrian Otaegui in the final of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth tournament at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
Despite virtually zero experience of match play as a professional, he didn’t lose one of the 25 holes that he played on Sunday, edging past Thai Jazz Janewattananond after a first-round bye and then accounting for Kristoffer Reitan and Paul Dunne on his way to the final.
Otaegui – unbeaten in 12 matches in his two previous European Tour wins – defeated Daniel Gale, Per Langfors, Min Woo Lee and Scott Vincent before running into a rampant Fox in the final.
A par was enough for Fox to claim the first hole and when he followed it with birdies at the next two had a three-up lead with just three holes to play. He needed just one more, halving the par-four fourth in pars to claim a 3&2 win.
The win brings with it guaranteed status on the European Tour until the end of the 2020 season and a move up to 11th in the Race to Dubai standings, but in a warning to those ahead of him on the world rankings, most importantly a confidence boost that he has what it takes to beat the world’s best.
“It felt like it’s been really close. It’s almost a relief now that it’s happened,” said Fox, who was denied the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last year in a play-off against Russell Knox.
“In Ireland I did everything right and just had someone do something incredible on me. I knew if I was in that situation again I’d feel as comfortable as I could. I definitely felt comfortable out there most of the day.
“I’m sure it might be different coming down the stretch in a stroke play tournament trying to win but this will certainly free things up for the rest of the year. I can go on feeling confident. If I play well, I feel like I can compete with anyone in the world and I think that’s a pretty dangerous place to be.”
Otaegui took 102 starts before he won his first European Tour event in 2017 and has no doubt that Fox has the game to climb much higher in the world rankings.
“He’s a very good player. He’s been in contention in many events,” said Otaegui, who moved up to 28th in the Race to Dubai standings. “He’s got great potential. I’m sure he’ll do very well in the next tournaments.”
A fishing trip planned for Monday that has been already been postponed by one day means Fox will not know how much he has moved from 85th on the world ranking until late on Tuesday but he will be significantly closer to achieving one of his goals for 2019.
“It’s probably going to help my world ranking, it’s going to get closer to top-50,” he said. “That’s where we all strive to be. You get into the Majors and the WGCs. That was a goal at the start of the year and it’s a goal that should be a fair bit closer now.”
Fox’s last win was the Challenge Tour’s Tayto Northern Ireland Open in July 2016, the timing of his latest win coming with only one slight downside.
Booked in to marry long-time partner Anneke the week after the New Zealand Open, Fox’s opening gag about not giving a winner’s speech for a long time now in need of a rewrite.
“It’s been 10 years in the making, getting married, and it’s actually killed one of my speech jokes,” Fox said.
“I was looking at running my speech as a golf speech and say that I hadn’t done one for a while. My mates were giving me a bit of stick about that but they can’t get me with that any more. I’ve got some practice kissing the trophy too, which was nice.”