Leading Kiwi golfer Ryan Fox will have Steve Williams on his bag and Shane Warne alongside him as he chases a New Zealand Open title in Queenstown this week.
Still rubbing his eyes after travelling home from an impressive share of 29th place at the WGC-Mexico Championship, the European Tour player doesn’t need to look far for inspiration as he tries to tame The Hills and Millbrook courses during the 101st edition of the New Zealand Open, presented by Sky Sport.
Fox and renowned Kiwi caddy Williams, the former bagman to Tiger Woods, have teamed up for the past four New Zealand Opens.
“Steve offered his services four years ago and I feel pretty privileged that he wants to do that,” Fox said.
“He’s seen arguably the best golf that anyone’s ever played through that mid-2000s period with Tiger and I can certainly learn a lot off him. It’s been good fun the last couple of years and I know the New Zealand Open is missing off his resume and it would be nice if we could both tick it off one of these years.”
The New Zealand Open sees 156 professionals paired with amateurs in a Dunhill Links-like format and, after playing with his father Grant in recent years, Fox will be joined on the tee by childhood hero and Australian cricket great Warne.
Fox grew up trying to imitate Warne’s ferocious leg breaks and has gone on to play alongside him regularly on the golf course.
“I know a Kiwi playing with an Aussie might not be good luck but it’s worked really well in the Dunhill Links,” Fox said.
“It’s cool to be able to call him (Warne) a mate now and I can go and have a bit of fun on the golf course with him." – Ryan Fox
“It’s cool to be able to call him a mate now and I can go and have a bit of fun on the golf course with him. Hopefully it’s good karma this week. It’s worked well before and we have a lot of fun on the golf course and hopefully we can keep that mentality this week.”
It’s fair to say Fox hasn’t returned home just to bank a few air miles.
He’d love to add his national Open to his career accomplishments and feels like his game is good enough to do just that.
“I played well in Victoria a couple of weeks ago and I felt like everything was pretty good last week. I’m in some of the better form I’ve been in coming into this tournament, but golf’s a funny game and sometimes that doesn’t mean much,” Fox said.
While Fox is one of the biggest hitters in the game, he knows Sunday’s champion will be crowned with a putter.
“When you look at the scoring for the past few years, it’s been up around 20 and higher. You don’t shoot those kind of numbers without holing a lot of putts. You are going to have to putt well to contend this week and I feel like I’ve been doing that reasonably well the last couple of weeks,” he said.
Fox gets his tournament underway with an early morning round at The Hills, playing in the same group as 2014 New Zealand Open winner Dimitrios Papadatos.