New Zealander Fox heads to Birkdale in fine form

Irvine (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


New Zealander Ryan Fox heads into next week's British Open at Royal Birkdale full of confidence after showing good form on the links in Ireland and Scotland.

Fox, 30, will be making his second appearance in golf's oldest major after qualifying a week ago by sharing fourth in the Irish Open.

On Saturday he fired a three-under-par 69 at Dundonald Links to go into the final day of the Scottish Open just three shots off the lead.

The Auckland-born golfer made his major-championship debut in finishing in a tie for 49th in 2015 at St. Andrews.

And Fox qualified for Royal Birkdale in only his 16th event this year as a full European Tour member.

"I have not played a whole lot of links golf before, so to get two pure links golf courses two weeks in row before getting to Royal Birkdale is great preparation," he said.

"I also have had some links experience growing up in New Zealand where it can get pretty windy, but then we do not have near as much as the change in conditions in the weather like here in Scotland.

"So, I am looking forward very much to next week and getting that experience again but hopefully this time around, and after these two weeks in Ireland and here in Scotland, I will be better prepared since I played the last time.

"It had been long week two years ago at St. Andrews as it went through to a Monday finish and to have finished inside the top 50, and also to have qualified last week, I know I can handle myself well playing links golf."

Next week will also mark the 54th anniversary of Bob Charles' memorable victory in the 1963 Open at Royal Lytham when he became the first New Zealander to win a major title.

Michael Campbell single-handedly brought the country to a standstill early on a Monday morning in capturing the 2005 US Open, but Fox said it was always late-night coverage of the British Open that inspired him.

"I have not played Royal Birkdale before but then I remember staying up really late watching on TV when Padraig (Harrington) won in 2008," he said.

"It was fantastic watching Cambo win the US Open, but the Open was always my favourite major to watch on TV as I would sit up to around one in the morning New Zealand time and then record the remainder of the Thursday, Friday and Saturday coverage.

"But for the final round, I would watch the coverage right through to about 6am on Monday morning and, as I mentioned, I remember doing that when Harrington won when it was last at Birkdale."

At present, there are two New Zealanders in the Birkdale field, after Michael Hendry finished second in the recent Mizuno Open to qualify, while Kiwi number one Danny Lee is high on the alternate list.

"To have two New Zealanders in the Open is great but then it would be fantastic for a small country like New Zealand to have three in the Birkdale field," said Fox.