Fox eyes Saudi title before return to NZ | Ralph Lauren

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New Zealand’s Ryan Fox is in position to make the most of a late change of plans after claiming the clubhouse lead in the Saudi International.

Fox completed a second consecutive five-under-par 65 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club on Friday shortly before play was suspended following an earlier two-hour delay due to bad weather.

At 10-under-par, Fox shares the lead with Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who had six holes of his second round to complete, with England’s Andy Sullivan and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger safely in the clubhouse on eight-under.

World No.1 and 2019 winner Dustin Johnson was also eight-under with four holes remaining, with Tommy Fleetwood a shot further back.

“I’m very happy,” Fox said after a round containing six birdies and a solitary bogey on the difficult ninth, his final hole of the day.

The 34-year-old Fox will return to New Zealand after the final leg of the European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’ and faces 14 days of quarantine when he gets home.

He had to book a slot before he left and opted for February 9, knowing that if he missed that date the next available was in May.

So Fox did think about skipping the Saudi Arabia event, but with a Jeddah-to-Dubai flight pushed back on Sunday evening he can still make his connection to Auckland – via Kuala Lumpur – and make it home on February 9.

Asked about being in contention for a second European Tour win, Fox smiled: “It is (where you want to be) – as long as I can make my flight on Sunday to make sure I get back into New Zealand.

“I can just control what I can control. If I go out and play well, try to set the target and make them chase me. I don’t know how many of the top 50 in the world are here this week, but it’s a lot.

“And I certainly hope to be there in the top 50 one day. If I can play well this week, then it’s a step forward in that direction.

“If not, it’s just good experience and a nice finish to my desert swing because I don’t really know when I’m going to come back out here again.”

England’s David Horsey, who equalled the course record with an opening 61, was two-over par for 12 holes of his second round and has fallen three off the pace.

The Australian challenge faded with Wade Ormsby currently the only one set to make the projected cut of level par, after his second round 69 brought him back to even.

Scott Hend and Lucas Herbert both finished at one-over for the tournament while Min Woo Lee, currently also on that mark, will surely have to birdie one of his remaining three second-round holes to make the cut when play resumes on Saturday morning.

Jason Scrivener, in such fine form a fortnight ago when runner-up in the Abu Dhabi Championship, didn’t make it to the weekend with his second round two-under 68 not making amends for his poor opening 75.

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