Winning a tournament at St Andrews will stir emotion in the most stoic of golfer but there was a tinge of sadness as Kiwi Ryan Fox completed a one-stroke win at the fame Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Fox, who will begin his 2023 DP World Tour season with back-to-back tournaments in Australia starting with the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club from November 24, had thoughts of great mate, the late Shane Warne, all week.
Fox and Warne finished second in the teams event of the pro-am format 12 months ago and Warne’s sudden passing in March rocked Fox to his core.
At the completion of the third round Fox suggested that Warne might provide some help some above, the Australian cricket great foremost in his thoughts as he claimed his second win of the season.
“It means a lot. To be honest the only person I can really think of at the moment is ‘Warney’,” said Fox, who is projected to rise to a career high of No.25 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“There was definitely some luck out there.
“Obviously I was pretty nervy the last three holes. I didn’t hit very good shots, to be honest, down the 16th, 17th and 18th. He was definitely helping out.
“He meant a lot to me and this event and was a great mate. It’s a terrible shame he’s not here.”
Starting the day four behind Englishman Richard Mansell, Fox closed with a four-under 68 on the Old Course to win by a single stroke from Callum Shinkwin and Alex Noren.
It took just seven holes of Sunday’s fourth round for Fox to take the outright lead before a combination of magnificent approach play and brilliance on the greens helped the 35-year-old extend his advantage to three strokes with three to play.
He suffered a late scare at the 17th but managed to limit the damage to just one dropped shot before safely parring the last to claim his second DP World Tour title of the 2022 campaign and third in all.
The New Zealander’s parents – Rugby World Cup winner Grant Fox and Adele – are over in Europe for a month but he did not have much luck during the first few weeks of their stay, with injury and lost clubs affecting him in that time.
Fox opened his birdie account at the third on Sunday, holing from 26 feet to move to 12-under.
A five-foot birdie putt at the fifth earned him a share of the lead alongside Mansell, and he led on his own courtesy of his third birdie of the day at the seventh, drilling his low approach shot to four feet before knocking in the putt.
Fox dropped a shot on the par-3 eighth but bounced back in style, slotting in his 15-foot birdie try on the ninth to head to the turn with a one-stroke lead ahead of Mansell and the charging Rory McIlroy.
Birdies from around eight feet at the 10th and 12th stretched Fox’s lead to three shots as some wonderful approach play helped him take command of the tournament.
A bogey at the 13th reduced Fox’s advantage to two but he holed a monster birdie putt from more than 50 feet on the 15th green to regain his three-shot lead.
After finding the thick rough off the tee at the 17th, Fox managed to get back on the fairway with his second shot but a disappointing chip left him with a 75-foot par putt.
He knocked that to within four feet and was able to drop just one shot, with his lead now down to one.
But a straightforward par at the last sealed a victory which sees him soar up to third on the DP World Tour Rankings in partnership with Rolex.
Speaking about the possibility of challenging for the Harry Vardon Trophy this year, Fox, who also won the Ras al Khaimah Classic in February, added: “I guess after the good run I had in the middle of the year, that was always the goal, to give myself a chance going into Dubai.
“It’s pretty cool to have that. Obviously a couple of pretty good players on that Rankings list, so I’ll have to do something even more special to get ahead of those guys but just to be in the mix is pretty good.”
Victorian David Micheluzzi was the best of the Australians, a final round of one-under 71 earning a share of 36th.