Rock wears down Tiger, Rory for big win in Abu Dhabi

Robert Rock plays regularly in South Africa because he likes the courses he plays on, and now that he has vaulted into the big league with his win last weekend in Abu Dhabi, he will be more closely followed than before.

The 34-year-old Englishman climbed to 55th on the Official World Golf Rankings as he took down Tiger Woods and the world’s top four players in Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

He shrugged off a wayward tee shot on 18 to bogey the final hole, which was enough to give him the victory at 13-under-par 275.

In the end, it was only Woods and McIlroy who presented any threat to Rock as he carded two-under-par 70 in his final round to beat McIlroy by a stroke, with Woods another shot back in a share of third with Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell.

And South Africa’s George Coetzee finished in a share of sixth for his first top-10 finish of 2012 to go with the eight he scored last year. And after his second place finish in the 2011 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, he is surely close to a breakthrough victory.

There was also a top-10 spot for Keith Horne, who shared eighth, while James Kingston and Charl Schwartzel finished tied 17th together with Westwood and four others.

Jaco van Zyl overcame his poor 75 in the opening round and had a solid weekend, ending up inside the top 25 with his share of 24th at five-under-par.

Thomas Aiken had a quiet tournament, finishing in a share of 48th with Donald at one-under, while Michiel Bothma, Jbe’ Kruger, Branden Grace and Hennie Otto all missed the cut.

For Rock, it was an almost unbelievable conclusion to a golfing rags-to-riches tale. For years he worked in the Swingers Golf Centre in Tamworth in Staffordshire, England, “selling Mars bars and watching Tiger win majors”.

He said, “At that point, I was just thinking, I hope I get to play a few European Tour events in my golf career.”

He turned professional in 1998, and won his first tournament last year when he took the BMW Italian Open.

And then he had the unnerving experience of having to withstand whatever mental pressure playing with Woods brings with it to take his second title.

“I was just struggling because I was playing with Tiger. That was going to be a pretty big deal,” he said. “But I managed to cope okay. I think things can spiral out of control a little bit if you start off hitting a few bad shots early on and then things can get on top of you.”

He came close to winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2008 when he finished second behind Richard Sterne – and he has two more top-10s in the events. He may well be a winner next time he plays in South Africa, now that he has showed such great temperament.

“It doesn’t get an awful lot harder than playing with Tiger Woods. So I guess barring a major championship, I know I can handle that again,” he said.

© 2016 Sunshine Tour. All rights reserved. Website constructed by OCS Sport