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Ryan Fox breaks through in France

(Photo: Getty Images)
New Zealander Ryan Fox held off a determined challenge from home favourite Thomas Linard to capture a wire-to-wire maiden victory on the European Challenge Tour in Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in France.

Leading by three shots at the start of the final round, Fox birdied the closing hole for a two over par round of 73 to finish on 14 under par, a shot clear of Linard, who pushed him all the way with a level par round of 71.

"It was a tough day," said Fox. "Conditions were pretty awful through the middle of the round with the rain and the wind. It was a great battle down the stretch with Thomas. We had four or five holes where we stood tied for the lead. He made some unbelievable shots and I guess it made it a little easier for myself to get forward to stay one in front.

"There are some tough holes out there, and I missed a couple of greens, and then got up and down, but it doesn't matter now, I guess. I'm just happy.

Fox has made an impressive start to his Challenge Tour career with two top ten finishes from three appearances before qualifying for The Open Championship and making the cut at St Andrews last week.

He is the first Kiwi to win on the Challenge Tour since Gareth Paddison back in 2007, a victory which coincidentally also came on French soil.

"This trip is my first time to Europe, and I have played well," said the 28 year old. "France was my dad's favourite place to tour when he was playing with the All Blacks. I think it's the same for me. It's my favourite place in the world at the moment."

Fox moves to 8th on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit and is now well on track to secure European Tour playing rights by finishing the top 15 at season's end.

Linard, a winner last year on the Challenge Tour, finished runner up on home soil last month in the Najeti Open Presented by Neuflize OBC, and he had to settle for the same position again.

Sweden's Steven Jeppesen and American Connor Arendell shared fourth place five shots back on nine under par after both players signed for rounds of 73.

Australian Scott Arnold who also performed well at last week's Open Championship finished 33rd.

Leading final round scores (par 71)

270 R Fox (Nzl) 62 67 68 73,
271 T Linard (Fra) 67 64 69 71,
275 C Arendell (USA) 65 65 72 73, S Jeppesen (Swe) 71 63 68 73,
276 M Decottignies-Lafon (Fra) 71 70 70 65, H Porteous (RSA) 68 65 70 73, S Hodgson (Eng) 70 71 69 66, D Stewart (Sco) 68 70 69 69, P Widegren (Swe) 69 66 69 72,
277 H Joannes (Bel) 67 70 76 64, D Perrier (Fra) 70 69 67 71,
278 J Fahrbring (Swe) 67 67 72 72, S Walker (Eng) 72 69 72 65,
279 J Lima (Por) 69 69 72 69, J McLeary (Sco) 67 67 76 69, B Evans (Eng) 69 69 74 67,
280 J Doherty (Sco) 70 71 73 66, R Evans (Eng) 67 68 72 73, M Bremner (RSA) 70 69 73 68, D Woltman (USA) 71 70 72 67, A Snobeck (Fra) 70 69 71 70, B Paolini (USA) 72 68 73 67, P Whiteford (Sco) 69 69 70 72,
281 B Virto Astudillo (Esp) 69 69 72 71, C Gloet (Den) 67 70 73 71, A Knappe (Ger) 67 67 71 76, A Pavan (Ita) 67 73 73 68, R Coles (Eng) 63 71 73 74, J Heath (Eng) 69 67 77 68, J Hansen (Den) 71 69 71 70, D Huizing (Ned) 68 68 73 72, R Kakko (Fin) 71 67 72 71,
282 S Arnold (Aus) 68 71 71 72, G Porteous (Eng) 72 67 69 74, D Bobrowski (Fra) 66 71 74 71, J Huldahl (Den) 68 71 72 71, S Tiley (Eng) 71 67 73 71, B Åkesson (Swe) 70 70 70 72, P Archer (Eng) 70 71 66 75, B Stone (RSA) 71 70 71 70,

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