Ryan Fox off to flyer at Nedbank as he goes in pursuit of Rory McIlroy

Red-hot Ryan Fox leads Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald after 18 holes at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the DP World Tour. 

Ryan Fox off to flyer at Nedbank as he goes in pursuit of Rory McIlroy
Ryan Fox off to flyer at Nedbank as he goes in pursuit of Rory McIlroy

Ryan Fox gave his chances of topping the DP World Tour Rankings in Partnership with Rolex a boost as he fired an impressive opening round of 64 to lead the 2022 Nedbank Golf Challenge.

After carding two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, Fox fired an eagle and five birdies after the turn to get to 8-under par and move one stroke ahead of 2023 European Ryder Cup Captain Luke Donald, who has returned to Gary Player Country Club for the first time since 2014.

New Zealand's Fox began the week second on the DP World Tour Rankings, having already claimed two victories in a stellar 2022 season.

If he can add another win to his tally in Sun City on Sunday, Fox will overtake leader Rory McIlroy ahead of the season finale in Dubai next week.

"Feels a bit weird to have done that today (shot 64)," said Fox.

"Had a lot of good numbers, managed to get the yardages right and I putted really nicely. Still feels a bit strange to be honest. 

"It's not quite as intimidating off the tee as I used to find it. There are still some tough tee shots around here but I feel like I’ve got a bit more control over the driver and being able to keep it in play. I’ve played at altitude a bit more and sort of have an idea of how everything plays. I felt a bit easier visually hitting the distances than I have in the past.

"You don’t get it very often (everything going well). You very rarely get it for a week but it was very nice to get it for that back nine. I played OK on the front and from 11 on I didn’t miss a shot. Had a lot of really good numbers, which helps. When you’re in that state you just need to get out of your own way and hit shots. I’ve done that well this year, but did it really well today.

"I couldn’t have wished for a better start. I figure if you can get to double digits under par around here for the most part you’re going to be pretty close come Sunday. To be most of the way there after the first round is pretty nice."

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Former World No.1 Donald is in second place after notching seven birdies in a bogey-free 65, with Italy’s Guido Migliozzi two shots further back after his 67.

"A little bit unexpected to be honest, I wasn’t showing much form coming into this week. Feeling a bit better about my game," said Donald. 

"I kept it in play well off the tee and my iron play was really good. I think I hit 15 greens today and around this course, that is very pleasing. It’s tricky with the altitude and the wind swirls a bit here, I got the distances right all day, gave myself a lot of good looks and made a couple pf putts, especially on the back nine. 

"This isn’t an easy course, you can’t fake it around here. You have to stand up on certain tee shots with trouble on both sides. It plays with your mind a little bit, so to shoot a good score like that is always nice and good for your confidence."

Australian Min Woo Lee continued the form that saw him notch up back to back third place finishes in his last two appearances, getting to 4-under par with his round of 68, alongside Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay and England’s Richard Bland, who has also been playing on LIV Golf this year. 

Edoardo Molinari, one of Donald’s vice-captains for next year’s Ryder Cup in Rome, is amongst five players a shot further back at 3-under par. 

Next Page: Greg Norman reminds Rory McIlroy of egg-on-his-face moment despite peace claim

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