SUN CITY, South Africa (AP)Ryan Fox reeled off five birdies and an eagle on the back nine to take the first-round lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa on Thursday and boost his hopes of overtaking Rory McIlroy in the European Tour rankings.
Fox opened his challenge at Sun City with an 8-under 64 for a one-shot lead over England’s Luke Donald.
McIlroy isn’t playing in the penultimate tournament of the season in Sun City and a victory would put Fox top of the rankings ahead of next week’s season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The New Zealander made three straight birdies on Nos. 9, 10 and 11 and then added an eagle at No. 14, a 600-yard par 5. He set himself up for that eagle with a 243-yard second shot with a 7-iron to within four feet. He made two more birdies on his last two holes and is very much in the running for a third win on the tour this year.
His latest title came at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last month.
Donald, the European Ryder Cup captain, enjoyed something of a return to form by going bogey-free in his 65.
Donald hasn’t won a tournament on either the European Tour or PGA Tour for a decade but found the Gary Player Country Club layout to his liking.
Italy’s Guido Migliozzi is third, three off the lead after a 67.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood only managed a 70 and is in a share of 12th place. His big setback was a double-bogey six on No. 8 but he pulled it back with four birdies and no more dropped shots after that.
Fleetwood is defending the title he won in Sun City in 2019. The Nedbank Golf Challenge was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year is the 40th time the Sun City tournament has been played. It was previously known as the Million Dollar Challenge and was born in controversy after being first held in 1981 during the height of apartheid in South Africa.
More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports