A perfect script for the 100th NZ Open would see New Zealand’s highest-ranked male golfer, Ryan Fox, lift the winner’s trophy for the first time.
The 32-year-old’s just had “quite comfortably” his best year on the European Tour, including a desperately-close second in the Irish Open, and has carried that form into 2019 with a breakthrough tour win last Sunday at the World Super 6 strokeplay/matchplay tournament in Perth, Australia.
“To be able to play in the 100th one is very special,” Fox says.
Now with a career-high ranking of 66th in the world, he’d love a shot at winning it this year, especially, but if it’s not him, “I’ll be pulling for one of the other Kiwi boys to get the job done”.
Fox, who’s getting married the week after the Open, says the tournament’s always the first to go on his schedule every year.
He loves the rare opportunity to play in front of Kiwi fans and to play two “great golf courses” — Millbrook and The Hills.
“I’ve played a lot of golf around the world, and both of those courses, especially The Hills, stand up against anything.”
For the third Open running, he’ll have Tiger Woods’ former Kiwi caddy Steve Williams on the bag.
After having not played “overly well” the past two years, “hopefully I can do him justice this year and get in contention on Sunday”.
“He’s seen arguably the greatest player in the world, or in history, at the peak of his game for an extended period, so it’s nice to be able to pick his brain a little bit.”
Not that he needs much help — “[my] golf game’s close”, he said last Thursday, just hours before teeing off in Perth, “and in this game it sometimes only takes one or two shots for you to figure it out”.
“It’s all about trying to get the little one per cent things better, and I feel like I’m slowly doing that and becoming a better player.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to play well every tournament, but everything’s just a bit tidier than it was a couple of years ago, and that’s generally showing in the results.”
That includes having better control of his renowned big-hitting prowess.
“I’ve still got one in the bag every now and again that can go a little bit off the planet, but generally I keep it on the planet now, which is good.
“It was almost a curse when I was younger — thankfully, that’s turned into something that really helps my game now.”
The 100th Open
“With three Major winners in a star-studded field and the arrangements in place, I am confident this could be our best NZ Open since the halcyon days of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s,” tournament director Michael Glading says.
For golf fans or anyone just wanting a beautiful, fun day out, there are many reasons to attend the 100th NZ Open and associated events.
Top pros and celeb amateurs will contest the pro-am format from Thursday to Sunday in the jaw-dropping surroundings of Millbrook Resort and The Hills.
The final two rounds are at The Hills this year, which Sir Bob Charles rates as one of the best courses in the world for viewing spots. It also has its unique sculpture park.
There is a host of extra-curricular activities throughout the week, including the 100th Open celebration at the The Farm course at The Hills on Wednesday, February 27 , with a field including 16 past champions.
And during the Open itself, spectators have the chance to play a three-hole course with hickory clubs, and there’ll be competitions, giveaways, entertainment for kids, a vintage dress-up day, food and drink options, and, of course, top-quality golf.
It promises to be a week to remember.– NEVILLE IDOUR
These stories were published as part of a Mountain Scene advertising feature.