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Ryan Fox relishing 'half' defence in Ras Al Khaimah

Ryan Fox relishing 'half' defence in Ras Al Khaimah

Ryan Fox is looking forward to "half defending" a title this week as he tees it up with reigning champion Nicolai Højgaard at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

The 2022 DP World Tour season saw two events played at Al Hamra Golf Club, with Højgaard winning this event and Fox lifting the trophy at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic seven days later.

That was Fox's second win on Tour after the 2019 ISPS Handa Super 6 Perth, with the Kiwi not getting to defend either title.

He will get that chance later this season at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, with his two wins in 2022 helping him finish second in the Rankings and claim the Seve Ballesteros Award.

A top 20 at last week's Hero Dubai Desert Classic represented his best finish of the 2023 season and the 36-year-old is hoping to shake off a stomach bug and enjoy another good week in the UAE.

"It seems to be a recurring theme for me on Tour," he said of not defending. "I won the last year of the World Super 6 in Perth, we had two events back to back here last year so Nicolai is the defending champion this week. Hopefully it doesn’t happen with the Dunhill later this year.

"I still feel like I’m half defending, winning round the same course, I’m the last guy to win here. It certainly means something. Playing with the defending champion tomorrow as well, which will be good fun.

"I’ve got great memories around here. Obviously what happened last year, but after the finish last week just making sure I’m there or thereabouts on the weekend is the main goal this week."

Højgaard won this event at 24 under last year, with Fox finishing the week at 22 under at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic but the players are likely to face a different test this week.

The rough has been grown out and with narrow fairways on most holes, Fox is expecting a tough examination.

"I’ve heard they have toughened it up," he said. "They didn’t have a lot of notice last year to get the tournaments together but I thought the course played great.

"It’s just there was no rough and not much penalty for hitting the ball a bit off line, but I hear this year there’s a lot of penalty for just missing fairways.

“I think it will be a tough test of golf this week. There are a lot of tee shots that are quite tricky, especially the back nine - ten, 12 and coming down the stretch 16, 17, 18 are narrow fairways. Always a bit of wind round here, it will be a good test."