By Fatiha Betscher, Al Hamra GC, RAK.
Ryan Fox is not only under pressure to retain his lead heading to the weekend round of the RAK Golf Classic but the powerhouse Kiwi golfer is also struggling with two related physical issues.
Fox, 35, continues to show the way around the stunning Al Hamra course adding a 69 to his opening 63 move three shots clear of the field at 12-under-par in glorious conditions close to the Arabian Sea.
Five players are in second place at nine-under including South African Oliver Bekker, who set a new course record of a 10-under 62. The 37-year-old golfer from Pretoria, with seven wins on the Sunshine Tour, lowered the Al Hamra record by a shot thanks to a round that included an eagle, nine birdies and a lone bogey.
Sadly, the Irish duo of Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin were cut from the event with Caldwell looking likely to play all four rounds in picking-up four shots in eight holes. However, the Clandeboye attached golfer undid his superb outward nine work in playing his closing seven holes in four-over for a second score of 72, with his level par tally missing the three-under cut-off mark.
Sharvin brilliantly holed a seven-yard putt for an eagle ‘3’ at the last but it was all too late for the Ardglass golfer with his score of 71, and added to his opening 73 also for a level par total, falling short in playing all four days.
Fox had tied the course record of a then 63 on day one of this second of the $2m Ras Al Khaimah double-header with his second day featuring six birdies but also including half as many bogeys.
“The strength of my game has always been my driving and I feel I can over-power this course, and depending on the wind direction there are three driveable par-4s for the longer guys while all the par-5s are gettable with the exception of 18 that’s touch-and-go into the wind,” he said.
“As well, there is not much rough and you definitely have an advantage the further you hit it down the fairway. We saw Nicolai (Hojgaard) win last week and he is one of the longest out here.
“I was looking forward to coming back to Al Hamra, as I played the Challenge Tour event here in 2016, so I had good memories of finishing just inside the top-20, and straight away when I saw it on the schedule I knew it would suit my game.
“It was just unfortunate I struggled with my back last week, so I was fighting my golf game big time, and thankfully this week everything has felt better and I feel I have been able to take advantage of the golf course.
“So, I’ve been able to use the length to my advantage.”
Fox revealed that while the back complaints have been ‘pretty rare’ in his golfing career, he has been suffering from ankle concerns for a ‘long time’.
“My ankle has been flaring up a little bit the last couple of weeks and the physio guys have been identifying that I have been compensating for my ankle and it has been resulting in other issues locking up further the chain,” he said.
“It’s just been nice to get some treatment this week and feel a little bit freer, and for the body to what it should do.
“The ankle is what it is, as I have been dealing with it for years now. I’ve had all the scans and I’ve been informed I can’t do any more damage to it and while it’s painful, I’m just trying to manage the pain with anti-inflammatories and cortisone injections and stuff like that.
“My last resort is ankle realignment surgery which is a pretty serious operation and with no guarantee of success, and the concern is it could be career-ending if the operation is not successful.
“Fortunately, the ankle concern is nowhere near thoughts of going under the knife. It’s just a little bit sore so I can deal with it.”
Fox could also see the sunny side of the comment that at the ripe old age of 35-years, he’s getting old and now having to deal with these issues.
He was laughing in response: “I’ve got bow legs and flat feet, so I can thank mum and dad, with one side of that coming from my mum and the other issue from my dad.
“The thing is you put a lot of force on your left ankle in golf if you are right-handed, and with that left ankle joint jammed-up with the anatomy, it was always going to have some issues. I did injure it years and years ago and it is what it is. It is one of those frustrating things that I can undertake all the physio work in strengthening my ankle but it’s just the anatomy of it that makes it sore and I am just trying to deal with that.
“I have some weeks when it is really good and a week like this where there are a lot of long walks through the unstable sand and that adds to it hurting a little more than normal.
“So, I just load up on anti-inflammatories and pain-killing pills, and deal with it.”
Looking ahead, the current World No. 211 eyes a second DP World Tour victory toast after breaking through for a maiden Tour win in the 2019 ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth event. Irish golf fans will recall Fox went close to victory a year earlier at the 2018 Irish Open losing out in a play-off at Ballyliffin to Scotland’s Russell Knox.
All-up Fox has won a dozen times in his pro career and has played in a dozen major championships – three PGA Championships, three US Open’s and five Open Championships but is yet to take the drive down Magnolia Lane.
But before thinking of competing in any of the 2022 majors, Fox, and no different to all his Tour colleagues, is looking to get back to normality.
“If you ask most of the guys out here, it’s getting back to normality we all are seeking,” he said.
“Especially coming from either New Zealand, it’s been very difficult travel-wise with Covid so just being able to get back home, and travel freely when I want, and also have the family travel overseas and not having to worry about Covid restrictions and all of that stuff will be nicer in the year to have that all hopefully behind us.
“If you had said at the start of 2020 that you would be playing golf for the next 18 months in a bubble and not have any family present at events, most of the guys would agree that that would never happen.
“It did and the Tour has done a great job in putting in place arrangements so that we have been able to continue to play, and hoping now as we continue to move forward that it will become easier to travel and we do get back to some normality.”
- Full scoring HERE