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'It's a golfer's paradise' - Ryan Fox focusing on having fun at the Masters

'It's a golfer's paradise' - Ryan Fox focusing on having fun at the Masters

By Mathieu Wood

Ryan Fox described Augusta National as “Disneyland” ahead of his debut appearance at last year’s Masters Tournament. A year on, he is still marvelling at the magical nature of one of sport’s most iconic venues.

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Ryan Fox made the cut in all four Major Championships last year

“There is no better place in the world to go out and enjoy yourself,” Fox told the DP World Tour on the eve of golf’s first men’s Major Championship of the year. “It’s a golfer’s paradise.”

Augusta National leaves a lasting impression on almost all who are fortunate enough to visit. Fox was no exception, as illustrated by his delight in a moment captured by the cameras following his maiden Rolex Series title at the BMW PGA Championship last September.

During the trophy presentation, Fox was caught gleefully whispering to caddie Dean Smith, “We get to go back to Augusta next year.”

Well, the time has come.

And, perhaps, this week’s Masters comes at just the perfect time for Fox. With four missed cuts in his last six starts stateside, having earned dual membership status on the PGA TOUR at the end of last season, a return to Augusta could just be the tonic he needs to kickstart his season.

But, this is a man who knows he can beat the best. A closing birdie on the final hole at Wentworth Club sealed a dramatic one-shot victory at one of the DP World Tour's most prestigious events, beating a stellar field which included the entire 12-strong European Ryder Cup team and international stars Tom Kim, Adam Scott, Billy Horschel and Min Woo Lee.

So, what would represent a good week on his second Masters appearance?

“To be honest, I have struggled so much and not enjoyed golf in the last couple of months, so the biggest thing actually is to go out there and try to have some fun," he said in an interview at Augusta National.

"If I can get out of my own head in respect of just enjoying hitting some shots and being out here and a part of the tournament then hopefully that translates into some good golf.

"From Wentworth last year, I know my best golf is good enough to compete with the best guys in the world. I have just got to find out where it is at the moment."

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Fox celebrates with his family after winning the 2023 BMW PGA Championship

Fox finished in a credible tie for 26th in his rookie start at Augusta 12 months ago. This was despite him suffering from sickness over the final two days of play.

“If it had been any other tournament I think I would have just stayed in bed, it was that bad,” he reflected.

Illness aside, it was an experience he will never forget.

“It was everything I thought it would be and more," he said.

His tee shot at the par-three 16th during the final round to set up a tap-in birdie was his highlight.

"I wasn’t playing great on Sunday, kind of scrapping away and I hit the shot up the slope on the right and it came back and looked like it had a real chance of going in and the crowd was going crazy," he added.

"It ended up an inch away and I tapped it in back handed which you know it has got to be pretty close if you do that. That was a really cool experience to get that Sunday roar that you see on the TV at the Masters."

A year on, one of the biggest aspects that brings pleasure to him is the presence of his wife Anneke, who missed out last year as she was 36 weeks pregnant.

“It was a pretty big goal to get back here and get her here and be able to do the Par 3 [Contest] with the kids and stuff like that," said Fox, who celebrated the birth of his second daughter Margot in May last year.

“I would have liked the form to be a little bit better in the lead up to this week, but it is still really great to be back here, and I feel like I can enjoy a bit more of what Augusta has to offer.

"Last year was such a whirlwind and you are kind of in awe of the whole place whereas this year it is still amazing, but it feels a bit more like a golf tournament and you get to enjoy having lunch in the clubhouse.

"Whereas last year I was like a deer in the headlights the whole time.”

Fox was fortunate enough to lean on the support of Steve Williams, long-time caddie to Tiger Woods, ahead of last year, while he has also taken insights from Green Jacket winners Adam Scott and Danny Willett.

"The cool thing about this place is if you come and are lucky enough to play a round with one of the past champions then they dish out all the cool info... including from the Champions Dinner or what have you," he said.

"They are always happy to share that info and that is what is always cool about this place.”

While Fox is still relatively new to the Masters, he knows one thing: He wants to be back again next year.

"I would like to do obviously a little better (than last year) and play well enough to get himself back here next year, but we will just go out there and try to enjoy it," he said.

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