At last year’s BMW PGA Championship, Ryan Fox left Wentworth Club fearing he had sustained a season-ending injury. What followed was a run of form that helped him be voted as the DP World Tour's Player of the Year.
In innocuous fashion, the Kiwi had tweaked his knee while walking around at home after carding an opening round 73 on the day the tournament was postponed due to the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The timing was frustrating. The New Zealander had already won a title – his second on the DP World Tour – earlier in the year at the Ras al Khaimah Classic and was riding high on the Race to Dubai.
But after being sidelined for the Rolex Series event in England and the DS Automobiles Italian Open a week later, Fox returned to action sooner than expected at the Cazoo Open de France.
“It was the strangest injury of all time,” he reflected. “I don't even have a cool story. I was walking around the kitchen table at the barbecue and something popped in my knee and it ended up tearing the meniscus.
“I can't even say I stepped on a kid's toy, did anything stupid. It was crazy. I was probably lucky in that I thought when I did it happened it was season ending and required surgery.
“In the end it was just a cortisone injection and a bit of rehab and I ended up winning at the Dunhill.”
While he missed the cut on his return to action at former Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National – one of his favourite courses on the calendar – Fox won on his next start at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
He dedicated his triumph at The Home of Golf to the late cricketing great Shane Warne, who he paired up with in the popular Pro-Am format on numerous occasions, including finishing runners-up together in the 2021 contest.
Two further top fives in Mallorca and at the Nedbank Golf Challenge would see him arrive in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship in contention to top the season-long rankings.
But after finishing in 19th place at the season-ending event, Fox would settle for a career-best second place on the DP World Tour rankings behind Rory McIlroy.
Since then, as a result of his performances last season, he has realised a life-long ambition of playing at the Masters Tournament and competed on both the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR.
He now returns to Wentworth off the back of a top five at last week’s Horizon Irish Open, where he finished two strokes behind winner Vincent Norrman at The K Club.
Despite coming up just shy of victory again on the Emerald Isle – it was his fourth top five at Ireland’s national Open – the reflections for the Kiwi were one of positivity rather than regret.
“I had taken five weeks off and not done too much at home,” he added.
”To be honest, the expectation level was pretty low last week. At the start of the week, I would probably just have been happy to play four rounds and start to hit some golf shots again.
“If you take the first nine holes out, which I felt pretty awful during, it was really good.
“After that, I played really solid, kept the ball in play off the tee on a pretty tight golf course and gave myself lots of chances.
“If a couple of things had gone my way, a couple more putts had dropped, I definitely could have won that event.
“I've always really enjoyed playing in Ireland as well, the fans are fantastic. I've got a great record at that tournament.”
His first top five of the 2023 DP World Tour campaign lifted Fox 14 places to 30th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex, while it also improved his Official World Golf Ranking to 42nd.
“I think the one thing I've had going for me this year is I've played a lot on the PGA TOUR, so everything has felt new, so it was hard to have those expectations.
“The events I've played over here, I felt like I've played solid but just not spectacularly. I think I've had a bunch of top twenties and not quite turned it into a great week until last week.
“But I think it was always going to be really hard to follow up a year like that. I feel like for the most part, I've done a reasonable job of it and still got a lot of really good events to play at the end of this year. Hopefully I can build some momentum from last week.
“I'd be pretty hard to contend for the Race to Dubai title this year with how Rory is going.
“But to try to qualify for one of those top 10 PGA TOUR cards is a goal I set at the start of the year.
“I've still got a great chance of that now, which is right where I kind of want to be.
“I've also had the experience of playing all the Majors this year and the WGC Match play for the first time, and some of those iconic PGA TOUR events that I grew up really wanting to play.
“So, I have kind of had the best of both worlds this year, which has been really cool.”
He now hopes he can build on that momentum at this week’s Rolex Series event ahead of an important stretch of events on the DP World Tour.
“It's [Wentworth] a golf course that hasn't treated me overly well in the past, but I probably haven't also come in off the back of a result like last week,” he said.
“So hopefully I can turn things around a little bit this week and figure out this golf course finally.”
It's going to be a tough event to win, but I'd certainly love to be up there on Sunday and I feel like I'm playing some decent golf and if I can give myself a chance on Sunday, anything can happen.
So, as a leading player in the men’s game, what is it that he puts down to his indifferent record over the West Course?
“I think for me, I generally hit the ball left or right off the tee and there's quite a few holes that require it right to left or generally suit a right to left,” he explained.
“There have obviously been guys… I think John Ram generally hits a fade and he's played really well around here.
“But for me, I've just struggled to see a couple of the shots around here and maybe not taken advantage of some of my strengths.
“I generally drive the ball pretty well, but it almost feels like on this golf course there are some shots I just don't see properly or don't see very well, and it's always been a little bit of a fight.
“So, hopefully I can change that a little bit this week. Golf is a funny game sometimes, all it takes is one round to kind of click around a golf course and then you figure out how to play it.
“I'm certainly hoping this is the week that that happens.”
He added: “Obviously there are a lot of very good players here this week, the whole European Ryder Cup team is here, plus a few extras.
“So, it's going to be a tough event to win, but I'd certainly love to be up there on Sunday and feel like I'm playing some decent golf and if I can give myself a chance on Sunday, anything can happen.”
After playing in front of sell-out attendances over the weekend at the Irish Open, Fox is once again hoping he can thrive in front of packed crowds this week in Surrey.
More than 100,000 spectators are expected to line the fairways throughout the week, with Fox in the same group as Australian young talent Min Woo Lee and experienced Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal over the first two rounds.
“The UK and Ireland just have great fans for golf in general. They tend to just understand golf.
“You get a clap for hitting a five iron to 30 feet behind the bunker because most of the crowd know that's where you're trying to hit it.
“I think a lot of the guys enjoy playing in the UK and Ireland purely for that, that everyone is so knowledgeable.”