Ryan Fox chased further ahead in the Ras Al Khaimah Classic as the Kiwi’s three under par second round 69 extended his lead to three shots at the halfway stage at Al Hamra Golf Club.
The 35-year-old started the week with a superb course record-equalling 63 for a two-stroke lead in the northernmost of the United Arab Emirates, but even though that score was bettered by South African Oliver Bekker’s 62 on day two, Fox still increased his advantage.
It was a colourful finish for the Auckland-born player – whose sole victory on the Tour came on home soil in the 2019 ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth – with four birdies and three bogeys in his final seven holes, but it was enough for a leading 12 under total.
Bekker, meanwhile, shot the lights out and set a new course record with a ten under round that included nine birdies, an eagle at the par five 14th, and a bogey, with the 37-year-old having enjoyed a top ten finish in last week’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital on the same course.
He shared second place with five others on nine under par, including five-time winner on Tour Pablo Larrazábal of Spain and another South African in Justin Harding – who had put himself into contention at the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic two weeks ago, eventually finishing in a share of fourth.
Ryan Fox: “It was a bit scrappier than yesterday, I didn’t drive it quite as well, a little sloppy hitting in the water on the last – that doesn’t help – but hit my irons really good and gave myself plenty of chances. I made seven birdies today so hopefully I can just keep it going the next couple of days, but it’s been a lot of fun out there.
“I struggled with my back last week and I was fighting, everything was crossed over and I didn’t know where I was aiming. I was just pretty much trying to hit the ball to be honest and I was probably quite glad I had a weekend off.
“Had a lot of physio work over the weekend with the tour physios and then with my physio from Tuesday onwards. That loosened everything up and I felt like I could turn through it again, I felt like I could start the ball where I wanted to and from that point it was kind of easy. I felt like I could hit my shot where I wanted to which was a nice place to be.
“It’s been lovely the last couple of days, I think it was four hours and five minutes on Thursday and four hours and ten this morning so hopefully the pace of play continues like that over the weekend. I played normally and we had two quick guys in our group, it was just nice being one of the first couple of groups out – we just had great conditions this morning as well – and it’s just been an enjoyable couple of days really.”
Oliver Bekker: “After yesterday’s start I knew I had to go low today so I kind of had nothing to lose. Then I left one short from 12 feet on the first hole and I thought, ‘oh my word, you need to get it going’.
“Then I managed to make a nice putt on 12 for birdie, then on 13 I made birdie and another nice putt for eagle on 14 and that really got me going. From there I just kept the momentum. After I was about nine under par I thought there’s still a few gettable holes out there coming in and if I can make one or two more and just keep the run going – just keep the foot down and don’t play too safe.
“I unfortunately made a pretty bad bogey on number five then almost hit it in the hole on six and seven I hit it close, eight I should have made birdie there as well. Ten under par, even if somebody said eight or seven under par I would have said thank you very much, so I’m very happy.
“I just need to keep on doing what I’ve been doing. Last week I had a good chance of finishing top-three probably and just fell away in the final round. Give myself chances, the more chances you get sometimes you’re going to take a few of them and then take it from there.”
Justin Harding: “I think that was more fortunate than not at the last, it came out hot and hit it dead centre but I’m quite happy with the four. A strange day to be honest, I thought I played great yesterday and didn’t seem to make a putt, burnt some edges, but today it was the complete opposite.
“I felt like I got away with it, I made a couple of good putts and kept the round going and ultimately finished with a couple at the end and put myself in a nice spot.
“I just think ultimately, the whole game is coming together. Maybe I’ve been a bit more patient than I have been in the past.
“I feel good. To be honest, it felt like I gave myself a great chance at the SA Open and then another good one in Dubai a couple of weeks ago, so it feels like I’ve been up there for a while now and it’s just a matter of putting things together and ultimately trying not to make a triple!”
Pablo Larrazábal: “Yesterday I played very solid, there was a little bit of breeze, and this morning – the back nine is a little bit tougher than the front nine and I shot four under there so I thought I was going for a very low one.
“But I started struggling from the tee. Bogeyed the second and then started missing a few here a few there, short putts for birdie. But then a very strong finish, I missed a five-footer on the seventh and a good birdie with two putts on eight so I’m playing very solid and putting very well.
“The greens are as pure as they can be, so it’s nice to be in position and nice to have a late tee time tomorrow to sleep a little bit. Hopefully the putter keeps working and I play a little bit better from tee to green.”