By Mathieu Wood
For every international golfer there are a select few venues that you want to win at. Ryan Fox has ticked off two in less than 12 months.
Just two weeks before the defence of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title he won at St Andrews last year, Fox can proudly boast another win on his resume at one of the most celebrated venues in golf.
With victory in the 44th staging of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, Fox landed his fourth DP World Tour title and undoubtedly the biggest of his career.
It was a triumph made even more meaningful due to family heartache he suffered earlier this year when his father-in-law Mike Ryff passed away following a short battle with cancer after the birth of his second child in May.
Waiting greenside for his winning moment were friends and family, including wife Anneke and their two daughters, three-year-old Isobel and four-month-old Margot.
Fox admitted their presence made the win emotional.
“It's been a difficult year,” he said.
“Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law were diagnosed with cancer. My father-in-law passed away in June after a really short battle and that kind of whacked us pretty hard.
Pretty cool to win with everyone here watching except my father-in-law, but I know he would be proud.
“I think every time I've gone home, I've basically not touched my golf clubs. There's just been so much going on at home.
“To have the family up the last couple of weeks, a change of scenery has been fantastic. Just had a chance to refresh and it sort of made all the difference.
“Everything feels a bit more normal the last couple of weeks rather than just complete chaos.
“Yeah, pretty cool to win with everyone here watching except my father-in-law, but I know he would be proud.”
It was also a historic success.
No player from New Zealand had ever won the prestigious event, which dates to 1955. In addition, no Kiwi golfer had ever won a Rolex Series title since its inception in 2017.
In a world-class field featuring all 12 playing members of the European Ryder Cup team, Fox emerged top of the leaderboard over the famed West Course.
Reflecting on adding Wentworth alongside the historic Old Course at the Home of Golf to the list of venues he has won at, Fox said: “Amazing. Two iconic venues on the DP World Tour.
“You look at the list of names that have won them, that's pretty significant, and to add my name to the list, especially this week is incredible.”
The raw emotion of pumping his fist in the air as he converted his six-foot birdie putt at the 18th to reach 18 under and claim a one-shot victory over former champion Tyrrell Hatton and another Englishman Aaron Rai on Sunday told the story of just how much this win meant.
Coming into the week, Fox was optimistic about where his game was at, having finished in a tie for third at the Horizon Irish Open.
But unlike at that event – where he has four top-five finishes in seven appearances – his record at the BMW PGA Championship wasn’t quite as remarkable.
In his six previous visits to Surrey, he had recorded just one top-20 finish in 2020, incidentally when Hatton won.
For a while in the final round, it looked like Hatton would provide the perfect tonic for Team Europe going into the Ryder Cup. At one point early on the back nine, he held a four-shot lead.
But either side of an 83-minute suspension in play due to thunder and lightning, Fox produced a performance befitting of a champion of this great tournament.
Having made a triple-bogey seven at the par-four third following an errant tee shot that resulted in him taking two off the tee, the 36-year-old showed immense resolve.
He birdied the sixth and eighth, but still appeared an outside hope to win when he turned for the back nine at 12 under.
What followed were five birdies in a six-hole stretch from the 10th, including a remarkable gain at the 15th when he recovered from an errant tee shot to produce an exquisite second shot to nine feet before duly rolling in the putt to take the lead.
He retained his one-shot advantage with pars on the 16th and 17th, but there was drama to come at the 72nd when Rai first lipped out for an eagle before Hatton birdied as they set the new clubhouse target at 17 under.
With Fox opting to lay up with his second at the final hole after finding the first cut of rough off the tee, a play-off appeared a genuine possibility.
However, last year’s Seve Ballesteros Award winner delivered under pressure by hitting a wedge to six feet and assuredly rolling in the putt to seal victory, with the final three-ball behind him out of the reckoning.
“I'm very surprised to be honest,” said Fox in his immediate post-round interview.
“If you take out the third tee shot, I actually played great all day but obviously making triple third hole of the day, you figured you might be out of the tournament and just play for a place. I didn't miss a shot from there on in.”
Having arrived in Ireland earlier this month without a top-10 finish all year, Fox has since transformed the outlook of his season, rising from 45th to third on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex in two weeks.
Only Major champions Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are ahead of him.
After coming close to topping the season-long rankings last year, Fox has now put himself back in the mix again, with six more events – starting with this week’s Open de France – before the top 50 available players take part at the DP World Tour Championship in November.
Remainder of the 2023 DP World Tour schedule
|Cazoo Open de France||Sep 21-24|
|Alfred Dunhill Links Championship||Oct 05-08|
|acciona Open de España presented by Madrid||Oct 12-15|
|Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters||Oct 19-22|
|Commercial Bank Qatar Masters||Oct 26-29|
|Nedbank Golf Challenge||Nov 09-12|
|DP World Tour Championship||Nov 16-19|
At one point early on in the final round, the leading six players were Ryder Cup members and nine of them were among the top 20.
It was an impressive showing from the European team that will head to Marco Simone Golf & Country later this month to try and regain the trophy they lost at Whistling Straits in 2021.
Having come out on top at Wentworth, new World Number 31 Fox will hope to maintain his momentum at 2018 Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National and challenge for another title at an internationally renowned venue.