After he’d run up a triple-bogey 7 at the third hole in the final round, this latest success looked highly unlikely, but the 36-year-old then covered his final 13 holes in a blistering eight-under-par. A closing 67 for an 18-under-par total gave him a one-shot win over English duo Tyrrell Hatton (66) and Aaron Rai (68). Masters champion Jon Rahm (68) finished a shot further back in fourth.
“Just hit one off three from out of nowhere,” said Fox of having to reload after sending his first effort deep into the trees on the right. “Played the hole pretty badly from there as well and made bogey with the second ball. I thought I was out of the tournament, to be honest.”
As overnight leader Ludvig Aberg showed he’s human, after all, by having his first disappointing day since turning professional and taking the game by storm, 2020 winner Tyrrell Hatton stormed to the top of the leaderboard and held a four-shot cushion at one point. But Fox was lurking ominously just before an 80-minute suspension due to the threat of lighting and it was job done for the Auckland man when he rolled in a six-footer down the slope for a closing birdie after Rai, the 2020 Scottish Open champion, had clipped the edge of the hole with an eagle attempt in the same group.
“I saw Tyrrell had started well; I saw Jon Rahm had started well, and if you're five or six back from those guys, it's going to be tough to claw back,” admitted Fox as he savoured creating history by becoming the first Kiwi to win this tournament and also the first to land a Rolex Series title. “But basically I didn't miss a shot coming down the stretch from the third hole. It's a pretty tough back nine at times and that's easily the best I've ever played it, socially, in a tournament, whatever, and to do it on a Sunday is tremendous. I don't think I quite believe it in my head yet that the trophy is sitting there.”
It’s his fourth DP World Tour triumph, with Fox admitting it had been an emotional one. “It's been a difficult year. Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law were diagnosed with cancer. Father-in-law passed away in June after a really short battle and that kind of whacked us pretty hard,” he said.
“I think every time I've gone home, I've basically not touched my golf clubs. There's just been so much going on at home. To have the family up the last couple of weeks, a change of scenery has been fantastic. Just had a chance to refresh and it sort of made all the difference. Everything feels a bit more normal the last couple of weeks rather than just complete chaos. Yeah, pretty cool to win with everyone here watching except my father-in-law, but I know he would be proud.”
After leading by two at the start of the day, Aberg had to settle for a share of tenth spot after closing with a 76 that contained two double-bogeys in the first seven holes on the iconic West Course. “You know, a lot of these things I am doing at the moment are things I am doing for the first time,” said the 23-year-old Swede, who was picked for the Ryder Cup in Rome at the end of the month after landing a maiden win on the DP World Tour in just his ninth event as a professional.
“This was the first time I was leading a tournament and I felt like I handled it quite well, to be honest. It was quite difficult out there and I made a few stupid mistakes where I missed on the wrong side and was a little bit too cute with the chips. It cost me today and I’m trying to learn from it and I’m looking forward to the next time I’m in that same position.”
Had his first big disappointment been down to emotions? “To be honest, not necessarily,” he insisted. “I felt the conditions today were a little bit harder, especially with the wind at the first. I felt like I hit some nice shots, but just misjudged the wind, especially on one, six and seven. It was just a little bit of everything and then I didn’t execute the shots as well as I did the previous three days.”
To his credit, Aberg was still smiling afterwards. “I mean, it’s going to sting for a long time,” he admitted. “But I will try and view those first three days as something very positive as it’s a sign that I am doing some good things and I am on the right track. So I will try and focus on that and the next time I’m in the same position I’ll be able to handle it better.”
Hatton hit the flag with his tee shot at the par-3 fifth before holing out from a bunker at the next. He also enjoyed rolling in a nine-footer for a closing birdie but wasn’t too disappointed about coming up just short. “It was nice to have a great week before the Ryder Cup,” he admitted. “So I take some confidence from that into that week.”
Fox beat all 12 of Europe’s Ryder Cup team to land his win but admitted with a smile: “I'll be fully supporting them in a couple of weeks!”