One look into the jetlagged eyes of Ryan Fox is testament that winning the 100th NZ Open would be a very special milestone in his career.
The highest ranked New Zealander in the world has travelled halfway round the globe to be in Queenstown this week, backing up from last week’s WGC – Mexico Championship to tee it up at The Hills and Millbrook.
“This would be right up there. A major would be bigger for a career, but to win an NZ Open is something that I would want to have on my resume at the end of my golfing career. The 100th one would be a pretty nice one to win as well,” he said.
“I was always coming back for this, it was probably a tougher decision to go last week but considering where I was on the world rankings, it was worth the gamble to potentially get into Augusta.”
Michael Hendry set something of a precedent in 2017 when he returned from the same event in Mexico and became the first Kiwi player to win the NZ Open in 14 years.
Fox, who claimed his maiden European Tour victory at the tri-sanctioned ISPS HANDA World Super 6 in Perth two weeks ago, has started the past few NZ Opens as the local favourite, and this week is no different.
“I guess winning a couple of weeks ago probably didn’t help all the expectations in that regard, but it’s always going to be the same,” he said.
“The Kiwis always want a Kiwi to win and I’ve been lucky enough to be the highest ranked one the last couple of times and not quite lived up to those expectations, so hopefully I can do a little bit better this year.
“I don’t necessarily feel any extra pressure, obviously there’s going to be a few more people out watching, but I enjoy playing in front of decent sized crowds and I’m more used to it than I was three or four years ago.”
With the likes of Tim Wilkinson, Steve Alker and a rebooted Michael Campbell in the field, Fox rates the chance of a New Zealand winner for the second time in three years.
“It’s probably the strongest contingent of New Zealanders we’ve had in a while, which is cool, and hopefully that translates into one of us lifting the trophy on Sunday night.”
There are 152 professionals and 152 amateurs taking teeing it up in the first two rounds played at both The Hills and Millbrook Resort on Thursday and Friday before a cut to the top-60 professionals plus ties, and any amateur inside that number, to compete in the final 36 holes at The Hills.