Ryan Fox is in the hunt for bigger prizes

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 26/10/2012
Ryan Fox
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
STAYING POSITIVE: Auckland's Ryan Fox.

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Ryan Fox seems like a pretty positive sort of bloke, so it comes as no surprise that he's looking forward to a bumper summer of golf on both sides of the Tasman rather than dwelling on what might have been.

Fox's first year as a professional was going swimmingly - he has won three times in three different countries this year and leads the New Zealand PGA Order of Merit - until he touched down in Nevada for the first stage PGA Tour qualifying event last week.

He fell ill with food poisoning on the eve of the four-round event, and did not fully recover till the third round, and he struggled with the altitude, often getting his club selection wrong.

Still, the Aucklander posted a respectable total of three-under 285, good enough for 25th in the 78-strong field but not good enough to be among the top 19 and ties who progress to the second stage.

He feels better for the experience, though, and despite his ultimate dream still being to play on the PGA Tour, he is philosophical about failing at his first attempt.

"I know I can compete over there," the 25-year-old son of former All Black Grant Fox said.

"I was only a couple of shots off and I can definitely find those two shots and a bit more throughout the week. Next year I know what to expect. I know it will be a different format (Q-school will be for the second tier web.com tour) but eventually I'm going to have to go through that process again if I want to play in the States."

Q-school is a gruelling four-stage process culminating in the final, six-round event where 156 players battle for 25 PGA Tour cards. It is said to be one of the most pressured environments a golfer can face, essentially playing for their future but Fox insists he was remarkably relaxed.

"It probably wasn't as bad as I found the PGA Tour of Australasia Q-school last year. It felt as if I was playing for an opportunity in the US rather than playing for my future.

"I don't know if I've got everything sewn up for Aussie yet for next year but I shouldn't have to go back to that Q-school, so it didn't feel as though there was as much pressure on.

"Being sick at the start probably helped keep the nerves away because I was just feeling so bad. It was more about just getting through and giving myself a chance."

He did give himself a chance but could not get that one low round going that would have seen him progress.

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"We were up at altitude and the ball was going miles. I just found it really hard to be precise hitting into the greens. I kept leaving myself 20 feet for birdie.

"The mistakes I made were more club than actually hitting a bad shot. I hit a two-iron 320 yards (290m) through the fairway into the water, which I didn't think I could ever do."

He is now refocusing on the PGA Tour of Australasia and trying to finish as high on the order of merit as possible, which would secure him more starts on the OneAsia Tour next year.

In addition to a pro-am victory in Masterton and two wins in the Pacific - at the Fiji and Tahiti Opens - he leads the NZ PGA Order of Merit and is currently 21st in Australasia.

He dropped out of the top five after being overtaken following the lucrative Perth International last week.

"It's been an awesome year so far. You set goals at the start of the year and one of those was to win as a professional. To get it done so quickly and then win a couple of more times certainly exceeded my expectations.

"The goal now is to definitely get into the top 20 and that opens a few doors. I'm sitting in a good place with some big events to come. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year with the New Zealand Open and the big tournaments in Australia."

Fox is playing in the WA Open in Perth, which started yesterday (he shot a three over 75), and has five further events before Christmas.

He will play the Australian Masters, New Zealand Open, NSW Open, Australian Open and Australian PGA in successive weeks across November and December.

"One of the reasons I went to Q-school was that if I didn't get through I still had the NZ Open and the Aussie Masters to play and they're two pretty good tournaments. I'mlooking forward to getting down to Christchurch again."

Fox played at Clearwater in his final event as an amateur.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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