When Ryan Fox claimed his first European Tour title at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth in February, he expected that more good results would follow. Instead, the Kiwi power-hitter has had to overcome a crisis of confidence to qualify for the first event of Europe’s finals series, this week’s Turkish Airlines Open. With TONY WEBECK
When you lock up status early in the year like I did with the win in Perth, the pressure comes off. You expect to continue to play well, but it seemed to almost work the opposite way for me.
I felt as though the first win should be the hardest and that it would get easier from there and it certainly didn’t work like that. Post-Perth, a whirlwind is probably the best way to describe the weeks that followed.
I didn’t really get a chance to celebrate winning properly. I was planning on taking a week off and catching up with friends and family and celebrating at home and all of a sudden I got the call that I was in the field for the WGC in Mexico. It was a tough decision to go to Mexico, actually. I got in on Wednesday night, didn’t play very well, came back for the New Zealand Open and then after that I had to switch the brain over to wedding preparations.
The honeymoon followed – probably the first time in almost 10 years that I’d travelled without golf clubs – and while we had an amazing time, I still don’t think I’d processed that win in Perth and what it meant. I came back after the honeymoon expecting everything to go right again and golf doesn’t work that way. It was the first time I’d come back after a break and really struggled, which was a bit of a shock.
I went and played some tough golf courses in some pretty brutal conditions and when you do that in this game it doesn’t take much to knock the confidence around.
The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black was the one that really hurt me. I went searching for stuff after that tournament and lost a bit technically. I’d slipped into a couple of habits that I’d never really had before. The miss was a big right miss and the lower body and sequencing was way out.
My coach Marcus Wheelhouse and I have been working together for seven years and we thought we had a pretty good blueprint for the normal faults I have and how to fix them. This threw a bit of a spanner in the works and it took a fair bit for us to figure out how to fix what was going wrong.
There were some tough weeks along the way. There were a couple of weeks when stuff really hurt. Wentworth was one for me. I felt like I’d turned a corner and went there and played terrible.
I missed seven cuts in a row leading up to the Open Championship – a record for me – and the Irish Open was the worst of the lot. The confidence really took a dent there.
It took a long time to feel normal again both mentally and technically on the golf course. That’s the nature of this game sometimes. When it’s good it’s fantastic and when it’s bad it can be one of the toughest games in the world. I guess I’ve had both ends of that stick this year.
Now as we enter the finals I can feel the confidence starting to come. There’s certainly been some signs after The Open. To shoot 65 around Le Golf National in the first round of the French Open, you’ve got to be playing some golf.
I feel in a much better place mentally and I’m hitting a lot more golf shots that I want to see because that was the biggest thing I was struggling with. Even when I was hitting good shots through the middle of the year, they still weren’t the shots I was seeing in my head. It almost felt like I’d aim and that it was a little bit of a guess as to what would happen. At least now I feel like I’ve got some control over the ball again. Hopefully it’s a sign that the game is coming right at the right time of the year.
I’m in a better place mentally than I have been in previous finals series. I’ve played a little less golf this year – and certainly a lot less weekend golf – so I’m feeling fresher in that regard.
The golf game has been trending in the right direction whereas the past couple of years I’ve been hanging on at this time of year and getting a bit frustrated with things.
For the first time I’ve got to play my way into the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai so I feel like I’ve got nothing to lose.
As for my grade as a husband the first six months or so, like my golf I got off to a good start with a safari in Africa but dropped away pretty quickly with some of my performances on the golf course. Anneke didn’t travel with me until after the wedding, but she has watched every shot I’ve hit at every tournament she’s been at since and it’s been pretty tough for her seeing me struggle.
During that seven-week stretch of missed cuts, even though we were travelling to some great places and I was playing some great golf courses, you still feel a little bit dejected that the golf game’s not where you want it. It’s hard when it feels like that’s all you’ve got, and it was that way for both of us.
We’re going back to South Africa for the Nedbank Challenge next week and a few more safaris so hopefully that props up my grade a bit by the end of the year.