BRISBANE, Australia — Ryan Fox’s journey to Australia from the DP World Tour’s finale in Dubai will give you travel anxiety. After signing off on an incredible, breakthrough season on the Old World circuit with a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy in the season-long points standings, the big-hitting New Zealander and his family hopped on a 16-hour flight home to Auckland. He was there for six hours, then went back to the airport to fly to Brisbane for this week’s Australian PGA Championship.
It’s even worse than it sounds.
“We’ve got a 2-year-old and we’d gone from London to South Africa [for the Nedbank Golf Challenge], then Dubai and it was just easier to take the whole family home [to New Zealand],” Fox said Wednesday at Royal Queensland. “We had a lot of stuff to bring home from London and it was just easier to go home and drop the family off. We got home at 12:30 a.m. By the time I’d repacked my bag and put some washing on, because I had no clean shirts, I got to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up again about 4:15 a.m. to make sure the washing was dry, put it in my suitcase and left for the airport at 5 a.m.”
Safe to say once he arrived in Brisbane at noon on Tuesday for a practice round, he “didn’t know what planet I was on.”
To top it all off, Fox was then placed in a marquee group at 6 a.m. for Thursday’s first round alongside World No. 3 and Open Championship winner Cameron Smith and 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott.
“Six o’clock tee time is … quite early,” Fox said through laughter. “I got to play with Rory last week in the first round in Dubai and now I get a couple of rounds with two Aussie legends.”
Playing with Australian crowd-favorites Smith and Scott is a compliment to Fox’s impressive DP World Tour showing in 2022. His form probably didn’t garner the attention it likely warranted with the focus of the golf world fixed firmly on the divide between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. (Some would say it was even overlooked by International Presidents Cup team captain Trevor Immelman, who didn’t use a wildcard pick on Fox.)
Fox was ranked outside the top 200 on the Official World Golf Ranking in February before winning the DP World Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic. He then went on a tear, recording four runner-up finishes and four other top-10s before an emotional victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland in September. Fox is now 24th in the OWGR.
“It’s definitely a blur at the moment,” said the 35-year-old who turned pro a decade ago. “The big goal at the start of the year was to get another win, and I got that under the belt pretty quickly. That let me have a free run the rest of the year.”
Asked to pinpoint the most memorable moment in 2022, Fox said it was easy: his triumph at the Dunhill Links, played at Carnoustie and Kingsbarns before concluding at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Fox had developed a bond with cricket icon Shane Warne during their five times teaming up in the pro-am portion of the event. Warne, an Australian, was regarded as the greatest spin bowler in the history of cricket. Fox last saw Warne while playing the 2021 Dunhill six months before Warne died of a suspected heart attack in March at age 52. After Fox’s win, he paid tribute to Warne, who’d become synonymous with the Dunhill.
“To win at the Home of Golf in any tournament is pretty special, and it would have been great to be able to share that with him this year,” Fox said. “You like he was looking down [on us].”
Fox then offered a classic Dunhill anecdote of Warne from the 2021 edition when they finished second in the team competition courtesy of an incredible final round from the amateur golfer. Warne, a single-digit handicap, was known to love a drink and a party.
“That was the last time I saw him and the last time I played golf with him,” Fox recalled. “[The night before the final round] he’d got home at 4 o’clock in the morning after he and a few other cricket [stars] played cricket inside the Old Course Hotel with a whisky bottle and a tennis ball at some ungodly hour. He gets on the first tee [Sunday] and says, ‘I’m no good this morning,’ and he starts off [on the Old Course] with a birdie/net eagle.”
Warne contributed birdie or net birdie on seven holes and two net eagles. “We shot 56 as a team and he beat [several] pros off the stick. He was just a legend of a man.”
After the Australian PGA and next week’s Open in Melbourne, Fox will reset and aim to carry his form into 2023. The three-time DP World Tour winner also will try to transition to the PGA Tour. Courtesy of his World Ranking, he will get several PGA Tour starts including the Players Championship and WGC-Dell Match Play.
“I think that’s the dream for any golfer really, to get on the PGA Tour,” he said.
Fox is also set to earn his first invitation to the Masters; the top 50 in the World Ranking at the end of 2022 are expected to qualify to play at Augusta National in April. It’s the only major Fox has yet to compete in.
“[The Masters] is the bucket list for any golfer, whether to watch it or to play in it,” Fox said. “I thought it had passed me a couple of years ago, that maybe I missed my opportunity and at 35, as a journeyman, I’d never get that chance. I’ve felt for a while if I play my best golf I can compete with the best players in the world, so hopefully I can carry on doing what I’m doing.”