It’s always nice to have a short putt to win on the Old Course. Well, unless you’re Doug Sanders. On the final green of golf’s most cherished expanse of terrain, Ryan Fox dunted in a wee one to put the tin lid on a fine Alfred Dunhill Links Championship triumph.

Four shots off the lead with 18 holes to play, New Zealander Fox, the son of All Blacks rugby great Grant, hauled himself to the top with a sturdy four-under 68 for a 15-under total and a one stroke win over Callum Shinkwin and Alex Noren, with Rory McIlroy a further stroke back.

It was the 35-year-old’s second DP World Tour win of the season and earned him a whopping cheque for £763,000. There was plenty of poignancy attached to the victory too. Fox’s partner in the Pro-Am event down the seasons had been the Australian cricketing legend Shane Warne and his passing earlier this year created a huge sense of loss. “To be honest, the only person I can really think of at the moment is Warnie,” said an emotional Fox. “I felt like he was there with me today. He was missed by a lot of people this week.”

There would, no doubt, be a couple of glasses raised in his memory. “I’m sure he’d be thinking about how many vodka and red bulls we could fit in the trophy,” added Fox with a smile.

Fox, who also has three second place finishes on the tour this year, had an injury-induced withdrawal and two missed cuts in his last three events. This was a timely return to fine fettle.

“Winning here, I don’t think it gets any better as a golfer,” he said. “To come down the last few holes of the Old Course on a Sunday, like so many great champions, and win here is very, very cool.”

As old sages of the links will tell you, no lead is secure until you’ve negotiated the perils and pitfalls of the Road Hole 17th. Fox will agree with that well-worn pearl of wisdom. Having extended his advantage to three strokes with a mighty birdie putt of over 50-feet on the 15th, the New Zealander proceeded to fluff his third shot to the 17th green. With Noren in close after a wonderfully executed approach there was the possibility of a real swing in affairs.

Noren failed to capitalise, though, and missed the birdie chance from five-feet while Fox limited the damage to a bogey with his two-putts from a treacherous distance. With Shinkwin already in the clubhouse on 14-under after a spirited 67, Fox’s lead was just one but he kept the heid, stayed calm and made a composed par up the last to clinch a memorable victory

On a day of fluctuating fortunes for those at the sharp end, overnight pacesetter, Richard Mansell, swiftly saw a big chunk of his four-shot lead wiped out when he made a double-bogey on the second. The chasing pack could smell blood and Mansell, aiming for a maiden tour win, was nervously peering over his shoulder like someone walking down a deserted alley and hearing a bin lid clatter behind him.

The lurking presence of McIlroy added to his heebie-jeebies as the world No 2, eight shots behind at the start of the day, made a telling thrust. Mansell would slowly drift away – he shared seventh after a 76 – while McIlroy, six-under through 16, saw his title push come unstuck at the Road Hole. Up against the face of the bunker, he had to come out sideways and leaked a shot. A birdie on the last in a 66 wasn’t enough. “I didn’t birdie the 14th and that was a real momentum killer,” he said of a putt that birled round the cup and stayed out.

On the home front, Grant Forrest and Connor Syme were the pick of the Scottish bunch in a share of 10th. Forrest, who was left cursing a double-bogey finish at Kingsbarns in round three, was a bit more chipper yesterday after a birdie, birdie finish in a 67 helped him earn over £68,400. “It took me a while to pick myself up after that finish on Saturday but this was great,” said Forrest after his late flourish.

Syme, playing in his local parish and with his pet dog following on the sidelines, closed with a 69 for another strong showing. “It was nice to get a lick from the dog as I went round,” he chuckled.

It was Fox, meanwhile, who was the top dog.