Ryan Fox falls agonisingly short at Irish Open

Author
NZ Herald,
Section
Golf,
Publish Date
Monday, 9 July 2018, 6:16AM
Fox didn't have many complaints as he claimed second and the $1.1 million New Zealand dollars which came with it. Photo / Getty Images
Fox didn't have many complaints as he claimed second and the $1.1 million New Zealand dollars which came with it. Photo / Getty Images

Ryan Fox has fallen agonisingly short of his maiden European Tour title.

Fox has lost a playoff to Scotland's Russell Knox at the Irish Open, missing an eight-foot putt to win the title and then having to watch on as Knox sunk two miraculous putts - the first to force a playoff, and the second to win it.

Fox and Knox produced as many twists as Dr Seuss envisioned, going back and forth in a thrilling final day, and while it was Knox (stay with me) coming out on top, Fox didn't have many complaints as he claimed second and the $1.1 million New Zealand dollars which came with it (€ 665,614).

"I feel alright. I had two great putts on 18, one grazed the edge and one came back at me, so I'm happy - I hit the shots I wanted to down the stretch, felt comfortable out there, and ... it was close," he said.

"I drove it great, gave myself plenty of chances, and had one putt been one inch either way... I'd have the trophy in my hand."

In the end, it wasn't to be, after a final round where Fox was in the driver's seat on two occasions. Each time Knox responded, with the pair the last ones standing in a round where several players launched bids at the title.

Jorge Campillo's seven-under round saw him leap to 13-under, one shot behind Fox and Knox, defending champion Jon Rahm left his bid too late and finished a further shot back, while Erik Van Rooyen's overnight lead of four strokes soon evaporated, as did his title chances as he too signed for a 12-under total.

At one stage, there were four players tied at 12-under, but Fox pulled away from the pack as part of a back nine birdie binge.

However, after a superb approach at 13 saw him stuff it within three feet for birdie, he found the bunker on the next hole, dropping a shot as Knox knocked one close to tie him atop the leaderboard once more.

It turned into a familiar theme. When Knox couldn't birdie the favourable par-five 17th, Fox struck, hitting the green in two and safely two-putting to take a one-stroke lead into the final hole.

Unfortunately for the 31-year-old, that's when Knox struck. The Scottish world number 87 sunk a mammoth 40-foot putt on 18 to force Fox to require a birdie for victory.

He nearly managed it - a booming drive and delicate approach left Fox needing to hole an eight-footer to win his first title on the European Tour, but past the right edge it skimmed, leaving Fox stunned, and giving Knox a second chance as the pair returned to the 18th hole for a playoff.

There, it was unfortunate deja vu for Fox. A 364 metre bomb of a drive down the middle set him up perfectly, while Knox narrowly avoided a bunker and could only recover to give himself a long putt for birdie.

Somehow, he sunk it again, roaring with delight, sending the crowd into raptures, and leaving Fox with a 12-footer to stay alive.

It lipped out, with Fox having to settle for second, and New Zealand's nine-year drought without a European Tour title continuing.

While missing out on the ultimate goal, Fox did get a handy consolation prize, with his second place finish booking him a spot in the Open Championship - his third appearance in the last four years.

The million dollar pay packet and upcoming rise in the Race to Dubai and World Rankings will be a boon as well, and Fox can see the bright side despite the tough finish.

"I'm happy, and it's a bloody nice consolation to get into the Open Championship."

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