New Zealand men's golf No 1 Ryan Fox has secured a place in MIQ in the latest lottery and will cut short his season, giving up on any chance of playing in the season-ending Dubai Tour Championship in late November.
Fox, who is 96th in the European Tour standings and has secured his Tour card for next season, had hoped to qualify among the top 60 for the Tour finale, by playing well in his final six tournaments starting with this week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championships in Scotland.
After forgoing the chance to come home earlier this month when he had a guaranteed MIQ spot, Fox was resigned to remaining in the UK with his family and not getting home for Christmas. He missed out in the last lottery but managed to secure one of the 3000 MIQ spots released on Tuesday night.
"We got lucky," Fox said. "There are thousands and thousands of Kiwis wanting to come back who got unlucky. I really feel for them, it's a pretty brutal system. We joined the line at 5am and managed to get spot 5500 in line and we were pretty open to coming back whenever we could."
Fox secured MIQ spots for the end of next month so will miss the Portugal Masters (November 4-7) and the Dubai Tour Championship (November 18-21) if he had managed to qualify.
"It's one of those things it was pretty important to get home and with the current system it's hard to pick when you can get home, you just have to take what you can get and what we could get was the end of October," Fox lamented.
It means Fox will play four more tournaments on the European Tour, starting with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday night. Fox is one of three Kiwis in the field, with Josh Geary and Denzel Ieremia also teeing it up.
It's played at iconic Scottish courses St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, with the final round at St Andrews. He will then play three events in Spain - the Open de Espana, the Andalucía Masters and the Mallorca Open in October - before returning home to Auckland for the summer.
Fox says the decision to come home was reasonably straightforward.
"It would have been a tough decision if I was already in the field for Dubai, around 40th on the money list and guaranteed to be in now. I think it would have been a much harder decision but for the fact that I've got to play really well the next few weeks and there's no guarantees that I'm going to get in. I should be fine in terms of a job for next year at least so that's a big goal ticked off and that made it a little bit easier.
"We weren't overly keen on spending Christmas over here and kind of being stuck on the wrong side of the world not knowing when we could get home, especially the wife and the little one. My wife was very keen to get home understandably and get some support as it's been pretty tough for her over here. I guess it's a small sacrifice to make in the long run and I hope next year everything's a little easier in that respect and we don't have to worry about hotel quarantine or anything like that. At least if it's home quarantine it makes travel quite significantly easier."
Fox expects to be able to take a largely carefree approach to the final few weeks of his season, now he is not under pressure to qualify for Dubai.
"It's a huge relief because there's been a lot going on off the golf course trying to figure out whether we can get home, now it's all sorted I don't have to worry too much and I can just go out and play and get on with things, so maybe the motivation might not be there quite as much but clearing up all the stuff off the golf course will make a massive difference. Hopefully I can go with a clear head and play some decent golf over the next four weeks. I've kind of got nothing to lose in that sense and it will make the two-week quarantine a little bit sweeter at home."
Fox is looking forward to reuniting with cricket legend Shane Warne at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week, with the pro-am format pitting the pros alongside amateurs and celebrities.
It's a strong field with a US$5 million purse with European Ryder Cup players Shane Lowry, Tyrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood all playing along with captain Padraig Harrington.
Fox called out Warne out a few weeks ago on Twitter when the Australian legend claimed India were the best side in the world after they beat England.
"What I did as a joke, a mate of mine texted me after Warney posted something about the Indian cricket team being the best in the world after beating England and I just thought I'd wind him up and remind him that the mighty Black Caps managed to beat India in the world test championship final," Fox explained.
"Subsequently I received a ton of abuse from Indian fans for the next three weeks over Twitter who I've come to realise are absolutely crazy, so I probably won't do that again, but it was kind of entertaining calling him out and we had a bit of a laugh about it. I know him really well and we played a bit of golf last week during a week off in London. It's great to be able to walk around and talk cricket and talk a bit of golf as well because he's as mad keen golfer as you get as well and probably plays 150 to 200 rounds a year all over the world."
Fox and Warne will play the first round at St Andrews and tee off at 10.17pm tomorrow in the first round.