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Irish Open: Cruel climax for Fox shows fine margin between joy and pain

By Adam McKendry

Golf is a game of millimetres. So said someone to me as we were on the 18th fairway preparing for the play-off at the Irish Open, and boy was he right.

Unfortunately, Ryan Fox found that out the hard way.

One can only imagine what was running through his head as that putt hit the right edge of the hole, began to dip in and then cruelly popped back up on the other side having done a full 180.

It was if the ball itself was taunting him: "You think you've got what it takes to win this tournament buddy? Guess again."

Eventual winner Russell Knox - who deserved his victory for those two behemoths of putts on the 18th alone - admitted he thought it was in.

The crowd thought it was in. Fox himself thought it was in. I was halfway back down the fairway preparing for the second play-off hole.

But golf is a game of millimetres. And they don't always count in your favour.

Fox goes away claiming he's happy regardless, but make no mistake that he blew a massive chance to win his first European Tour event, and now his mind will go racing.

What if he'd holed that putt on the 18th and taken it to another playoff hole? Would he have won it?

What if he'd holed his 10-footer on the 18th to win it outright on 15-under?

What if he'd holed his 10-footer on the 17th for eagle instead of birdie to win?

Indeed, now that the event is over and we can reflect, perhaps it's important to remind ourselves of two key things that, had they gone a slightly different way, meant it wouldn't have been Russell Knox sitting with the trophy.

First, what if Erik van Rooyen had held his nerve and not suffered a meltdown just before the turn?

And what if defending champion Jon Rahm had not triple bogeyed the second and signed for 15-under instead of 12?

Those questions will never be answered, and in golf perhaps ifs and buts never should be answered as a way of self-regulation, but it all added up to nothing short of an outstanding grandstand conclusion.

Thousands packed around the 18th green, willing every ball into the hole and roaring when it did; it was golf at its purest form, enjoyed by all that packed into the natural amphitheatre.

Credit must go to John Farren and his team for a stunning week at Ballyliffin that will live long in the memory. A beautiful place that has earned its place in the heart of many a professional and challenged them more than they thought it ever would.

Graeme McDowell's pre-tournament assertion that 20-under would win it was proved a foolish claim by a staff that manicured this course to perfection, and it will reap the rewards for years to come.

But for now we reflect upon a thrilling conclusion, one that had us all at odds as to where the trophy would be headed right up until Ryan Fox's ball had the last laugh.

Golf is a game of millimetres, and this week they determined they would go in favour of the smiling Scot, Russell Knox.

And, perhaps more importantly, Ballyliffin got the finale it so richly deserved.

Belfast Telegraph

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