by Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia
Ryan Fox wins first European Tour title in Perth
Image: PGA of Australia
It forms the last piece of the puzzle for Ryan Fox to join the world's elite elite, but first the 32-year-old Kiwi has to rewrite his marriage speech
Twelve times winner on both the Australasian and Challenge Tour, Fox broke through for his first European Tour title with a convincing victory over the Spanish Adrian Otaegui in the final of the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth tournament at Lake Karrinyup Country Club
Despite almost zero experience in matching competitions as a professional, he lost none of the 25 holes he played on Sunday, past the Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand after a first round and then good for Kristoffer Reitan and Paul Dunne en route to the final.
Otaegui – unbeaten in 12 games in his two previous European Tour victories – defeated Daniel Gale, Per Langfors, Min Woo Lee and Scott Vincent before running into an unbridled Fox in the final.
A par was enough for Fox to claim the first hole and when he followed it with birdies the next two had a 3-up lead with only three holes to play. He needed one more, halving the par-4 fourth hole in pars to claim a 3 & 2 victory.
The victory brings a guaranteed status in the European Tour until the end of the season of 2020 and a rise to 11th in the Race to Dubai ranking, but as a warning to those in front of him in the world rankings, most importantly a self-confidence boost that he has what it takes to beat the world's best.
"It felt like it was very close, it's almost a relief now that it has happened," said Fox, who was denied the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in a playoff against Russell Knox last year.
"In Ireland I did everything right and someone just did something incredible with me and I knew that when I was back in that situation, I would feel as comfortable as I could, and I felt comfortable most of the day.
"I'm sure it might be different to come down in a stroke play tournament that is trying to win, but this will surely free the rest of the year, and I can continue to trust myself.
"If I play well, I have the feeling that I can compete with everyone in the world and I think that's a pretty dangerous place to be."
Otaegui took 102 starts before he won his first European Tour event in 2017 and has no doubt that Fox is much higher in the world ranking.
"He is of course a very good player, he has had a lot of quarreling," said Otaegui, who worked his way up to the 28th position in the Race to Dubai rankings.
"Clearly a second place in the Rolex series last year and he has great potential.
"I'm sure he will do very well in the next tournaments."
A fishing trip scheduled for Monday that has been postponed by one day means that Fox does not know how much he has moved from number 85 to the world rankings until late on Tuesday, but that he is significantly closer to one of his goals for 2019.
"It will probably help improve my world rankings, it will get closer to the top 50," he said.
"That is what we are all striving for: you will be in the majors and the WGCs." That was a goal at the beginning of the year and it is a goal that has to come a step closer.
"I do not know what the goals will be New Zealand Open, then I have a few weeks off but I'm sure I'll get the chance to sit down and discuss everything again and set goals for the next few weeks the rest of the year. "
Fox's last win was the Tayto Northern Ireland Open of the Challenge Tour in July 2016, the timing of his last win was only a small drawback.
Booked to marry the faithful partner Anneke, the week after the opening of New Zealand Open, Fox's opening gag about not long giving the speech of a winner who needs a rewriting.
"It has been in the making for 10 years, getting married, and it's actually one of my speech jokes," Fox said.
"I was watching my speech as a wave speech and said that I had not done it for a while.
"My comrades gave me a little bit of that, but they can not get me anymore, which is nice.
"I also did some exercises to kiss the trophy, which was nice."