'It's like a major' - Ryan Fox gears up for career opportunity

Ryan Fox.

Ryan Fox is embarking on the biggest opportunity of his golf career to date - and the World No.33 is not shying away from the challenge ahead of him.

"Being in contention this week will be stressful, I can tell you that," Fox told 1News, jumping on a call less than 12 hours before he tees off at the PGA Tour's prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.

"It won't be a bad thing, but I'll certainly need a day off (next week) if I'm in contention over the weekend this week.

"It feels like playing a major, definitely."

It's Fox's second-ever PGA Tour start, after earning an invite to the Memorial Tournament in 2019. But, more importantly, it's the first of 12 he gets automatic entry to this season as a player in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

He's right in the thick of the action already, having played a practice round with World No.1 Jon Rahm and major winner and former No.1 Jason Day.

His first impressions of the Bay Hill course are frank.

"The penalty for missing golf shots is pretty severe and I feel like it's going to be one of those courses (where) it's going to be pretty hard to score four days in a row," Fox said.

"You'll have a couple of days in there where you're really fighting and you're maybe not even playing that badly, you're just missing shots and getting hammered for them."

In terms of mixing with the big guns, that is somewhere Fox is now comfortable.

Ryan Fox during the first round of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

"I feel a lot more comfortable now than in 2019 (at the Memorial). I kind of felt a little bit of imposter syndrome there, to be honest, 'do I really deserve to be here,' that kind of stuff. I certainly don't feel that now."

The Arnold Palmer Invitational start comes in a bittersweet week for Fox, a player who's always gone out of his way and given up other opportunities to come home for the New Zealand Open and support the event, which started at Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown today. This year, though, Fox has opted to surge ahead with the potentially once-in-a-career chance.

"It's always an event that's the first one that goes in the schedule and then all of a sudden, this is for top 50 players in the world and it's hard, too hard to turn down that opportunity.

"Pretty much everybody in the top 50 in the world who's eligible to play is playing this week, so to be able to do that, I hope no one begrudges me from taking this opportunity, it's too good. It's just unfortunate timing this year, but hopefully I can play well this week and make up for it a little bit."

New Zealand Open organisers are supportive of Fox's decision, knowing he is one of the players who always gives back to the event.

"Foxy, I have no doubt will be back playing in this tournament again, and he's doing the right thing for his own career," tournament director Michael Glading told media yesterday before the NZ Open started.

Fox tees off at 2:28am NZT tomorrow and he's already fended off his first challenge - an alligator. Not literally, the Kiwi getting rather close to the reptile, after some egging on from Aussie, Day.

"Jason Day was egging me on, 'you won't touch it, you won't touch it!' I didn't have to get close enough to touch it, but I don't think I was going to get there. I was ready to go back the other way pretty quickly, if it turned around," he laughed.