New Zealander Ryan Fox dedicated his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship victory on the Old Course at St Andrews to his late friend Shane Warne, the cricket legend who died in March at the age of 52.
Fox clinched his third DP World Tour win by finishing one shot ahead of Callum Shinkwin and Alex Noren with an impressive final round of 68, for an overall 15-under-par total of 273.
Warne, the former Australia leg spinner, was Fox’s regular amateur partner in his five previous Alfred Dunhill Links appearances. As a result, the pair became close and, last year, came within a whisker of winning the team championship.
Fox said: “To be honest the only person I can really think of at the moment is Warney. It definitely felt as if he was with me all the way around. It means a lot to win this event, we were great mates, and it’s just a shame he’s not here. I really wanted to try to do something special for Warney and I’m pretty proud to have been able to accomplish that.”
Those still fresh memories were with Fox throughout the tournament and it certainly did seem as if the 35-year-old Kiwi’s victory was meant to be, as overnight leader Richard Mansell, who began the day four strokes clear of his nearest three rivals, a group that included Fox, found a gorse bush on the 2nd hole and fell back into the chasing pack with a double-bogey.
And not even Rory McIlroy, who shot his second 66 of the weekend at the Old Course to finish on 13-under-par, could get past Fox and saw his own challenge drop away after a visit to the notorious Road Hole bunker, a splash out sideways and a bogey five.
In the end, with England’s Mansell fading to a 76 and a share of seventh, only Noren had a chance of catching Fox. The Swedish Ryder Cup player hit a magnificent approach to the 17th, but missed a five-foot birdie putt, while Fox scrambled a bogey five there by two-putting from distance after a mis-hit third shot only just made it on to the front of the green.
That meant Fox required only a par four at the last to stay ahead of Shinkwin, whose 67 had seen him finish a shot ahead of McIlroy at 14-under-par. Noren’s drive looked like going out of bounds until a freakish bounce propelled it back into play and across to the back of the green. But Noren’s long eagle putt came up just short and that left Fox needing only to take two putts from around 15-feet to complete his victory, collect the US$816,000 first prize,
It was a second win of the season for Fox, adding to a victory at the Ras al Khaimah Classic, and he always looked in control during a round which featured seven birdies, four of them on the front nine. He is now predicted to leap up to 25th in the world rankings list, the highest position of his career.
The week as a whole has once again provided a host of memories for professionals and amateurs who paired up in the Team Championship, won this year by Callum Shinkwin and Alex Acquavella, who posted a brilliant final round 63 at the Old Course to post a -37 total and win by four shots.
Shinkwin praised the composure of his amateur partner. “It’s a tough situation to be in for an amateur playing with three pros. I said to Alex on the first tee just to enjoy himself, and he did. I didn’t notice he was nervous at all. At 14, he hit a driver and an 8-iron, two big hits!”
Acquavella added: “We’ve never played together before, but Callum was a real gentleman from the first day we met. He’s been so supportive this week. I was very nervous today. I started to feel it even more on the back nine, but I managed to have three good holes so I was happy, and now I can go home and celebrate with the family.”
Ryan Fox’s WITB
Driver: Srixon ZX5 (9.5°)
Fairway wood: TaylorMade SIM Titanium (14°)
Utility: Srixon Z U85 (20°)
Irons: Srixon ZX7 (4-PW)
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore (50°, 56°, 60°)
Putter: Fine Tuned Prototype
Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV