Fox chases name on ISPS Handa New Zealand Open trophy

With ducks gliding across the pond which curls around Millbrook’s 18th green and the sun beaming down, it was very much the calm before the storm for Kiwi golf star Ryan Fox ahead of the opening round of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open starting in Queenstown this week.

Fox fronted the media ahead of his opening round at The Hills tomorrow with plenty of interest expected to fall on the European Tour rookie, who will be playing with his All Black father Grant Fox and will have world-renowned caddy Steve Williams on his bag for the first time.

Coming off a missed cut at the Tshwane Open in South Africa last week, Fox, who tees off at 8.03am at The Hills, hopped off the plane and played his first round with Williams on Tuesday and rates his current form.

“It’s been very close of late. I’ve been playing pretty nicely without putting any scores on the board. The goal this week is to be in contention come Sunday afternoon and anything can happen from there. I’d love to see my name on the trophy at the end of the week.”

NZ Golfer Ryan Fox and caddie Steve Williams ahead of the 2017 ISPS Handa New Zealand Golf Open. Millbrook, Arrowtown. New Zealand. Wednesday 8 March 2017

NZ Golfer Ryan Fox and caddie Steve Williams ahead of the 2017 ISPS Handa New Zealand Golf Open. Millbrook, Arrowtown. New Zealand. Wednesday 8 March 2017. © Photo: Andrew Cornaga

In a drought those ducks would not appreciate, it has been 14 years since a New Zealander has held the Brodie Breeze Trophy.

Fox and Williams both believe this could be the year a local can conquer the fairways and greens at Millbrook and The Hills.

“We’ve got a lot of Kiwi guys playing well and it’s certainly the year to do it. Hopefully it’s me, but if it’s not me, there’s a few other guys with a chance this week,” Fox said.

“For me, I think the golf courses are playing a little tougher than they have in previous years. The greens are pretty firm and definitely around The Hills there’s a lot of the long stuff if you miss fairways. It might be a little more penalising, but there’s definitely some good scores to be had.”

Williams, who has worked with some of the best in the game, including 13 major championship victories with Tiger Woods, has had to learn some new tricks as part of his fledgling association with Fox.

While the pair enjoyed ribbing Fox senior during their Tuesday round, working with 30-year-old Fox will mean plenty of mental arithmetic for Williams this week.

“I’ve caddied for 40 years and never caddied for a player who plays in metres. I’ve got to get my head around that pretty quickly,” Williams, who has always worked in yards, said.

“I haven’t caddied for a New Zealander since 1979 (Sir Bob Charles). I’m ticking off something on my bucket list to caddy for a New Zealander at a New Zealand Open, so I’m really looking forward to the week.”

Also flying the New Zealand flag in Queenstown this week will be the likes of Michael Hendry, Josh Geary and Gareth Paddison.

The international charge will be led by Korea’s Y.E. Yang, the first Asian to win a major with that famous victory over Tiger Woods, and four-time US PGA Tour winner, American Heath Slocum.

The past five New Zealand Open champions, all Australians, are also amongst the field, including defending champion Matt Griffin, top of the Australasian Tour OOM; 2014 winner Dimitrios Papadatos who won the Victorian Open two weeks ago and 2011 champion Brad Kennedy, who was 11th on the Japan Tour OOM last year.

The 93rd ISPS Handa New Zealand Open is a NZ$1 million Tier One event on the PGA Tour of Australasia, in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour and Asian Tour, and is being played at Millbrook Resort and The Hills from 9-12 March.

NZ Golfer Ryan Fox and caddie Steve Williams ahead of the 2017 ISPS Handa New Zealand Golf Open. Millbrook, Arrowtown. New Zealand. Wednesday 8 March 2017

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