Before travelling to the US for this week’s PGA Championship, in-form New Zealander Ryan Fox emailed Tiger Woods’ former caddie Steve Williams looking for any advice on Oklahoma’s Southern Hills.
Fox knew the legendary Kiwi caddie was on Woods’ bag when he won the 2007 PGA at Southern Hills in extreme heat. But the hilly Tulsa, Oklahoma course has gone through significant changes after a 2019 restoration by popular architect Gil Hanse, and so Williams wasn’t able to offer too much advice.
Instead, world No.90 Fox will rely on his hot 2022 form and his incredible power off the tee to get an edge at the year’s second Major. Not that he isn’t world-class in other facets of the game, but Fox is one of the longest hitters on either of professional golf’s two biggest tours. He averages a whopping 318 yards off the tee.
In a practice round on Wednesday, the 35-year-old Fox annihilated a drive up the middle of the par-4 ninth at Southern Hills, which measures 391 yards and is uphill. Fox had a three-quarter lob wedge for his second.
“Off the tee, the fairways are pretty generous and yes length is going to be an advantage, but with this thick Bermuda rough I’m still going to have to drive it straight,” Fox told New Zealand Golf Digest after his round. “It’s a second shot golf course; all your approaches are at small targets to sloping greens, so you have to be in the right place around the greens or you’ll be making bogey.”
Fox compared the difficult Southern Hills under a PGA Championship setup – which is usually known as the big-hitter’s Major – to somewhere between a forgiving PGA Tour setup and a brutal US Open venue.
“The course is fantastic; it tests every part of the game,” he said. enjoy, “It’s a tough test but you’re not worried and grinding over every shot like you would at a US Open. It’s a big boy golf course.”
Fox is in fine form on the DP World Tour (formerly-named European Tour). He has more than halved his world ranking since January courtesy of a sensational run. Sine his win at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February, Fox has posted results of 15th, nine, eighth and a tie for second in Belgium last week.
Fox played in the final group in Belgium and took a one-shot lead into the final day, only for talented Englishman Sam Horsfield to rally on the back nine to steal victory.
“I would probably have more of a bee in the bonnet about last week if I hadn’t won earlier in the year,” Fox said.
“You don’t get a whole lot of chances to win on Tour. I didn’t quite close it out last week, but I didn’t feel like I did a whole heap wrong. There were a couple of bad shots on a Sunday and Sam played really well. It was nice being in contention again and hopefully I can do something similar here this week.
I’m happy where my game’s at and it’s a nice bonus to get into the PGA Championship after looking like I wasn’t going to at the start of the year,” Fox said, who was ranked as high as world No.217th in January. “I’m going to try enjoy this week.”