Sleeping on a lead is never easy. Sleeping on a six-stroke lead should make the pillow feel ultra-soft, yet for Ryan Fox such a sizeable margin was the source of minimal rest.
The Kiwi star had domianted the DP World Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic from the outset with an opening 63 and middle rounds of 69 and 65. Yet he felt anything but comfortable.
“Sleeping on a six-shot lead, I didn’t sleep very well last night,” Fox said. “Obviously a couple of the guys came at me early. I was a bit nervous. I had that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach all day.”
It showed. In the final round overnight, Fox missed a tiddler for par at the fourth hole and saw his six-shot edge clipped to two when Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal led a posse of players chasing hard. Fox settled, however, continuing a trend of birdieing the next hole after a bogey that had been a feature of his week in the United Arab Emirates.
The turning point came early on the back nine. Fox faced a 44-foot birdie putt at the difficult 12th hole – the hole where he’d driven wildly right and into a lake the day before – while ahead Larrazabal was trying to extricate his ball from desert scrub at the driveable par-4 13th hole.
Fox authored the tournament’s most resounding moment by holing the lengthy putt, while the Spaniard could manage no better than a par at the 13th.
Moments later, Fox birdied the same 13th hole to settle any lingering nerves and restore a lead that at last provided comfort for the final five holes. Fox birdied the 72nd hole to close a five-stroke victory over England’s Ross Fisher, the Kiwi’s closing 69 at Al Hamra Golf Club no indication of how taxing a round it felt.
It’s Fox’s second DP World Tour title, although his first in the conventional 72-hole strokeplay format after his 2019 ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth victory that was a combination of stroke and matchplay.
“I’m very happy with how I played,” he said. “A couple of great shots coming down the stretch and it was certainly nice walking down the last with putter in hand with so many putts to win.”
Fox’s daughter Isabel was born in December 2020 and the proud dad could not wait to get home and see her – after spending 10 days in hotel quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was definitely thinking about the family coming down the last couple of holes, it’s pretty big for them,” said Fox, who moves to eighth in the DP World Tour ranking and is projected to climb almost 100 spots to 117th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“They’ve got to come over to Europe every year and it’s a little bit harder with a little one now and this win makes it a little bit easier for them to do that.
“I’m a bit disappointed that I missed her walking and I’ve got 10 days in a hotel when I get home to think about that as well.
“I’m very much looking forward to seeing them when I get out late February.”