New Zealanders Ryan Fox and Danny Lee made significant progress in yesterday’s second round of the 2016 World Cup of Golf and while they still have a lot of work to do if they are to be contending for the title tomorrow, that they worked their way back to the edge of contention is a reflection on the growing status of the men’s game in New Zealand.
Lydia Ko has given New Zealand golfing stocks a great boost with her amazing run in women’s golf over the last few years culminating in her reaching the top of the female game in terms of rankings at present, but since the retirement or semi-retirement of players such as Michael Campbell, Frank Nobilo and Greg Turner, there has been a dearth of male New Zealanders capable of reaching the heights of the game.
Admittedly, Michael Long, Steve Alker and Tim Wilkinson have done well to compete on the PGA Tour, either currently or previously, but in Fox and Lee there are genuine hopes that either player could well reach the top ten and maybe, just maybe, even higher.
Lee was of course a precocious talent in many respects, winning the US Amateur at the age of 18, becoming the world’s leading amateur at that point and just six months later, at the same age, winning the Johnnie Walker Championship in Perth as an amateur and turned to the paid ranks immediately after playing the Masters in 2009.
After several years finding his feet at the professional level while playing on the European and Web.Com Tours, Lee graduated to the PGA Tour and has now won at that level, reaching the top fifty in the world and is currently 64th.
Lee left Korea at the age of eight and attended school in Rotorua and became a New Zealand citizen in 2008.
Ryan Fox has earned his European Tour card for 2017 and with the benefit of a significant tour on which to play next year the emerging star that he is should begin to shine even brighter.
Narrowly missing out on European Tour status via the financially demanding and competitive European Challenge Tour in 2015, Fox resolutely set about righting that matter this year by finishing 4th on the Challenge Tour money list and playing his way to a European card.
Fox’s powerful game will always stand him in good stead but he is clearly learning his craft by the moment and wins at a higher level than the two he has secured on each of the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Challenge Tours will surely come his way quickly.
His very good finish at last week’s Australian Open at Royal Sydney where he contended for much of the week gave further evidence that he can compete at the highest level and playing with winner, Jordan Spieth, in the last round in Sydney will provide him with even greater experience.
The New Zealanders might not win this week at Kingston Heath but the pair’s growing standing in the game will impact positively on the game in their home country and assist in redirecting some of the focus on New Zealanders’ performances to more than just the those of Lydia Ko, as good as her performances.
With three players on the PGA Tour, one on the European Tour, one (Michael Hendry) playing with success on the Japan Tour and one on the LPGA Tour, New Zealand golf fans have as much to look forward to as they have in a long time.