It didn’t take long for LIV Golf to come calling after Ryan Fox’s big year. Photo/Getty
As the war between the established tours and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf intensifies, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox has revealed he has been approached by the rebel league.
The 35-year-old Aucklander rocketed from 47 to 23
in the rankings following his victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews last month. It didn’t take long for LIV Golf to come knocking.
But Fox, who has been consistent in his desire to play on the PGA Tour, rebuffed the approach from LIV management.
“Most guys in the top 50 have had some kind of approach but I have worked so hard to get where I am,” Fox told the Herald from Dubai, where he is preparing to challenge world No 1 Rory McIlroy for the DP World Tour’s Order of Merit title.
“It was kind of a no-brainer. I’ve worked my butt off to get in the position that I’m in. I don’t want to jeopardise any of that, to play in events that I’ve dreamed of playing in next year, the Masters and the Players Championship and a few of the PGA Tour events. We know where the PGA Tour stands but don’t know where any of the other majors or anything like that stands. So it was a no-brainer for me.”
McIlroy has called for Greg Norman to quit as LIV Golf CEO to allow the “adults” to negotiate a peace settlement in the sport’s civil war. The Northern Irishman has led the opposition to the breakaway circuit but believes a compromise needs to be reached, something he doesn’t think can occur with Norman at the helm.
“I think Greg needs to go. I think he just needs to exit stage left,” McIlroy said. “He’s made his mark but I think now is the right time to say you’ve got this thing off the ground but no-one’s going to talk unless there’s an adult in the room that can actually try to mend fences.”
Asked if he backed McIlroy’s calls for Norman to step aside, Fox took a diplomatic approach.
“I don’t know enough about it. But it’s pretty obvious from the outside looking in that they don’t want to be in the same room together. Greg’s had a vendetta against the PGA Tour for a long time so in terms of what he said, it probably makes sense. If they need to talk then that potentially needs to be a couple of different people than who’s there,” Fox said.
Having started the year ranked 213 in the world, Fox, with two tournament wins and a slew of top 10 finishes, finds himself ranked 24 and second on the European Order of Merit.
He will tee off in the final pairing alongside McIlroy at 9.45pm on Thursday knowing that a win would see him claim the title. In theory, Fox could finish as low as 13th and still claim the season-long prize. A second-placed finish will see him top the rankings provided he finishes above McIlroy, but a finish of third or lower leaves the door open to some of the rest of the chasing pack, including US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland , Shane Lowry and Adrian Meronk.
Fox, as he has done for much of the season, is taking a ‘nothing to lose’ approach.
“Rory is the favourite, as it should be. He is the No 1 player in the world and he’s played fantastic the whole year, and arguably could have won a couple of majors, and he’s won the FedEx Cup and everything else. So I’m very happy to be here, very proud of what I’ve achieved so far,” Fox said.
Thinking back to the start of the year where he was ranked outside the top 200, Fox felt he always had the game that could get into the top 50, but didn’t anticipate the success would come so quickly.
“It was pretty cool to achieve that earlier this year. Then all of a sudden, you throw in another win, a second, another top [finish] and all of a sudden, I’m sitting at the top 30 and have got plenty of opportunities for next year.
“That seems a little bit surreal still, but I also feel like I’m playing like one of the best players in the world. It’s been a pretty awesome year and I am feeling pretty comfortable in contention in some big events as well lately.”
Fox is fresh from finishing runner-up to England’s Tommy Fleetwood, having held a share of the lead playing the last hole at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa on Monday morning.
As for playing with McIlroy for the first time in the final pair tomorrow night, Fox admits there will be some nerves but he has grown used to garner attention as this phenomenal season has progressed.
“There are definitely some nerves; they’re different, not as much as there would have been. But it’s nice to play in those groups. You are doing something right if you’re playing with the best player in the world, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never played with him before.”
McIlroy praised Fox in his pre-tournament media conference, impressed with the Kiwi’s surge up the rankings.
“He’s had an amazing season,” McIlroy said. “I saw [he] went from 217th in the world up to 23rd in the world. That’s an amazing climb. You have to play consistently great golf over a decent period of time to get that high. And he’s done those playing golf tournaments that don’t necessarily provide as high of world ranking points as some others, so I think he’s done a phenomenal job this year.
“I don’t know him well but he seems like a lovely guy, and I’m looking forward to playing with him on Thursday.”
Fox just hopes the course conversation stays away from the All Blacks.
“I just hope he doesn’t start talking too much about rugby, going down the first couple of holes. I don’t think I’ve got too much to come back to at the moment with him over that,” Fox said referring to Ireland’s 2-1 series victory over the All Blacks in July.
Fox is optimistic the course in Dubai will follow him over the next few days.
“It’s quite long and length is an advantage around here. Probably the only thing that it’s got that I’ve traditionally struggled with is quite grainy greens; it’s all Bermuda grass, which is very different than anything we get in New Zealand. Anyone who’s played golf on the Gold Coast or something like that will be relatively familiar with that grass, but definitely not something we get in our climate. I always find a little bit tricky to figure out because visually it looks a little different than what it does on the greens. But I feel like I’ve got the tools to figure that out.”
Fox is also inspired by the possibility of completing the second leg of what would be a remarkable Kiwi trifecta. With Steven Alker winning the PGA Champions Tour Order of Merit, Fox will finish a few hours before Lydia Ko, who is attempting to win the LPGA Tour’s Order of Merit title in Florida.
“If you’d had odds on that at the start of the year, you’d be repaid quite handsomely if we all managed to do it. It’s pretty cool for New Zealand golf, just for the three of us to have a chance. Lydia has been a phenomenal player for a long time. And it’s probably a little more expected from her than me especially, but I’ve seen what Steve Alker has done and this year is just incredible.
“It’s got to be inspiring to any golfer in New Zealand to grind, as long as he did on several different tours, and then all of a sudden, find career-best form and beat some of the world’s best biggest name players. Beating Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, guys who have won multiple major championships, over a whole season, and the consistency he showed is scary. And I wish him huge congratulations on that. Hopefully we don’t let the side down and get that trifecta that we’re on for this weekend.”