PGA Championship: Ryan Fox, after pneumonia battle and birth of second child, suddenly in the mix at Oak Hill

Ryan Fox posted a 2-under 68 on Thursday at the PGA Championship, which was just 1 shot back of the leaders

Ryan Fox didn’t return to the United States until Sunday night, which ended a strange and busy month following the Masters in which golf was absolutely on the back burner.

Somehow, after a battle with pneumonia, the birth of his second child and a pair of flights to the other side of the world and back, Fox is in tremendous position after his opening round at the second major championship of the year.

Fox posted a 2-under 68 on Thursday to kick off the PGA Championship, which put him one shot back of the leaders at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York.

“It’s probably pretty surprising, as I didn’t have a lot of prep coming in and had four weeks off in the lead-up to this with a few things going on,” Fox said.

Fox falls ill at the Masters

Fox’s wild month started at the Masters.

While he made it through and finished T26 in his first run at Augusta National, Fox struggled throughout the weekend. He started getting sick and withdrew from the RBC Heritage the next week in the middle of the first round.

He then flew more than 8,200 miles back home to Auckland, New Zealand, and learned that he had pneumonia. It didn’t stop there. A few weeks later, Fox’s second child was born.

“That took a fair while on antibiotics to get over that,” Fox said. “Basically as soon as I got over that, our daughter was born, which was just over two weeks ago now. Our second daughter was born, Margot. So I had a few sleepless nights and not a lot of practice.”

It wasn’t until Sunday that Fox took the 15.5-hour flight from Auckland to Chicago. He made the last leg of the trip Monday morning.

While he’s healthy again, the combination of battling pneumonia and caring for a newborn took a toll on the 36-year-old.

“To be honest, I still don’t feel like I’ve got [my strength] back completely,” Fox said. “My speed is down a little bit on what it normally is.

“Probably took two weeks at home just to get any energy back. I would go do something with my daughter and then feel like I could sit on the couch all afternoon, which I guess is not a bad thing anyway.”

Ryan Fox
Ryan Fox barely played any golf over the past month while recovering from pneumonia and welcoming his new daughter, Margot. (David Cannon/Getty Images)

Fox shines in opening round

Although he played just a little bit of golf between Augusta National and now, it didn’t look like it Thursday.

Fox’s opening round was very solid. He finished with a 2-under 68 on Thursday and carded four birdies with a pair of bogeys to enter the clubhouse T2. His mistakes were minimal. He bogeyed the par-3 fifth after hitting his tee shot in the bunker and hit his approach shot into a fairway bunker before settling for another bogey at the par-4 17th.

“Well, the golf game was pretty good a month ago. It can't have disappeared that far,” Fox said. “As I said, I needed a break. I think I played — I had been away for 11 of 13 weeks at the start of the year. Yeah, almost pneumonia was a benefit in a way that I just got home and knew I could do nothing and just relax. Yeah, coming in this week fresh has been pretty good so far.”

Fox has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but he has seven international wins to his name — most recently at the DP World Tour’s Ras al Khaimah Classic in December. His best finish at a major came at the British Open in 2019, where he finished T16. Fox made the cut at the PGA Championship last year but finished 54th at 7-over on the week.

He’s still a long way from winning a professional life-changing major championship. But coming off the past few weeks, Fox is more than happy with where he is with 54 holes to go in New York.

“I generally like playing the week before a major, and I’ve always been, after a decent break, always been a little rusty coming back,” he said. “I did expect that. But I also thought this is kind of a golf course you don’t have to shoot 20-under a round. If you can shoot par this week, you’re going to be there or thereabouts … I managed to hit a few good shots out there and ride out a really hot putter.”

Perhaps the best benefit for Fox as he walked off the course Thursday afternoon was knowing he can return to his quiet hotel room.

“There's probably still a little bit of jet lag in there, but as I said earlier, but I think having uninterrupted sleep has been quite good this week,” he said.