Ryan Fox took one big step closer to a second DP World Tour title at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic after the New Zealander further extended his lead at the top, opening a six-stroke advantage at Al Hamra Golf Club.
The 35-year-old has led after every round thus far in the second of back-to-back tournaments in the northernmost of the United Arab Emirates, and will be looking to become the first Kiwi wire-to-wire winner since Michael Campbell at the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2000.
Fox, whose sole victory on the Tour came almost exactly three years ago in the 2019 ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, made the perfect start and built on his three-shot halfway lead by opening with four birdies in a row.
He dropped two shots thereafter but bounced back with birdies – something he has done after each of the six bogeys he has made all week – and the Auckland-born player signed for a seven under 65, a 19 under total and a commanding lead over the chasing pack.
Sharing second place on 13 under par were Spanish duo Adri Arnaus and Pablo Larrazábal as well as Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and Poland’s Adrian Meronk.
Ryan Fox: “My head’s in a pretty good place, ask me that on the first tee tomorrow and I might have a slightly different answer but I felt like I had really good control over the ball today, only hit a couple of bad shots and holed some putts as well.
“So I’ve put myself exactly where I want to be and it’s all on me tomorrow, someone’s going to have to do something really low or I’m going to have to play poorly so hopefully I can keep playing how I’ve played in the past few days and put it out of reach.
“I think I’ve made six bogeys all week and bounced back every time, so I don’t know why. It’s just felt like one of those weeks where every part of my game has just worked and when I’ve hit a bad shot I haven’t let it get to me too much.
“I’ve probably been lucky enough for the most part, I’ve had an easier hole after I’ve made a bogey most of the week. I’ve also seen a couple of putts go in like the one I had on ten after bogeying nine so everything’s been going pretty well.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been perfect. I hit two terrible drives on nine and 12 and missed a short one for par on nine. I let a couple slip yesterday, obviously I bogeyed the last which was playing downwind, but for the most part everything has worked which is kind of rare for me to be honest.
“I’ve always had something for the week that hasn’t worked, whether it’s the putter or I haven’t done everything else very well. But everything has seemed to click and hopefully I can keep that going for one more day.”
Adri Arnaus: “I’m very pleased. Obviously, I started with some fire, birdie-birdie-eagle to start, I was thinking ‘OK I’m at two digits very early’ but I had a couple of bogeys after that. But I kept myself together after that and I had a good back nine which has put us in a good position so I’m happy about that.
“At the end of the day I just need to go out there and stay focussed on what I have to do on those last few holes if I have to do something special, we’ll go out and do it. It seems like we’ll have to make a bit of a charge but I’m trying to stay present and do my best.”
Adrian Meronk: “I’m very happy with my round. I played really solid, made a lot of good putts, driver was solid. To be honest overall everything was good.
“I’ve been playing quite well all week, I’ve just been making too many bogeys, so the goal for today was that nothing changes – just play a little bit smarter on some tougher holes which we did. I made a couple of saves also which I’m happy about so these were key.
“It’s our second week in the same place so we know the place quite well now. The wind is quite similar every day, quite consistent, so you get used to it the more you play it and it gets easier.
“It’s been a nice four weeks for me, I’m a little bit tired to be honest. But I’m excited for tomorrow, the game feels good and I’ll just go out there tomorrow and just play my game and try to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Pablo Larrazábal: “I started very quickly, I started birdie-birdie and then a birdie on four but I slowed down in the middle of the round. I had a couple of pushed shots here and there, but these two birdies to finish give me a little bit of hope for tomorrow.
“It looks like it’s a bit of a one-man tournament, but that means it’s only one man. It’s not easy to have a big lead going into Sunday. It’s tough, people are talking about it and you read about it, and if he doesn’t play well we will be there to fight until the end. If not, we will still fight, that’s my nature.”
Scott Jamieson: “It was a nice putt to finish. It wasn’t the best wedge shot, but it’s tricky as the green is so big. I feel like I’m at the front of the green when I’m hitting a 70-yard wedge shot and I didn’t quite commit to it but the putt made up for it.
“Everything has been really solid. At the end of last year the driver got an awful lot better and when you are in play a couple of times rather than being out of play, it means you might have a couple more birdie chances instead of fighting to make par.
“So that’s probably made a big difference and the short game and the rest of the game has stayed pretty strong. Yeah, I’m happy. It’s in a good place.
“I played with Oliver Bekker on Friday and it’s the easiest ten-under I’ve ever seen. He kept hitting it close and the greens are so pure as well. If you can get your eye in, you can really get the putter going. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”