New Zealand golfer Ryan Fox returns to action for the first time in nearly three months at the rich DP Tour event in Abu Dhabi tomorrow.
The tournament at the Yas Links course marks the start of the rebranded European Tour's Middle East swing and has a prize purse of $11.8 million. It features all the top European players including the likes of Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton along with PGA Tour stars Collin Morikawa and Adam Scott.
Fox arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday after a couple of solid weeks practicing in Auckland under the tuition of his coach Marcus Wheelhouse. He departed for a four-week swing that will see him also play the Dubai Desert Classic next week and two more tournaments in the UAE, in the knowledge he will be able to return home in the middle of next month thanks to one of Sport NZ's allocated 20 monthly MIQ places.
It ensures Fox will be a star drawcard at the New Zealand Open which is scheduled to take place at the end of March at Millbrook in Arrowtown.
Fox says he enters the new season having had a better preparation than in recent years.
"Everything feels pretty good. I'm probably the most prepped I have been for the start of the season for a while. I had a fair bit of time off getting back at the end of October. Normally I would get back in mid-December and try to take four weeks off and get back into it to get ready for these events.
"But I basically had two months off any real practice. I kept on top of stuff with Marcus and played plenty of social golf with my mates, but there was no real practice or grinding or anything like that, I was just having a bit of fun and doing a bit of fishing. Then the second of January came around and I got properly into practice and playing a lot of golf. The game feels pretty good because of that and I am looking forward to hopefully starting the year well."
Fox has several goals for the season, including winning for a second time on tour.
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"I think the last couple of years I've been a little bit distracted with what's going on off the golf course; there have been quite a few challenges. Some great things have happened in my life as well. So hopefully, this year, I can get back to focusing on my golf game and not as many of the troubles off the golf course, which I felt like I was a little bit plagued by last year."
If Fox can get his game back to his best he will be in line for some big paydays, with the Tour's rebrand resulting in significant increases in prize money.
"It's great for the Tour considering the last couple of years and what's gone down with Covid," Fox said.
"We are still dealing with a little bit of the travel restrictions, with events having to be cancelled and moved. But I'm hoping by April, May, we won't have any of that, and especially when we're travelling around Europe - for the most part it's going to be a lot more normal."