By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
DORAL, Fla. -- Since beating Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, Robert Rock admitted he gets noticed a bit more these days. He also gets into more tournaments -- like this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
Rock, who is 57th in the Official World Golf Ranking, is in the field this week by virtue of that victory. He’s also still surprised how he handled himself that Sunday, shooting a 2-under 70 playing alongside Woods.
“I was nervous the first couple of holes,” Rock said Tuesday. “Once I realized I could play my own game, though, I just carried on with my day.”
One thing Rock isn’t surprised with is how Woods played at last week’s Honda Classic, where Woods shot a final-round 62 to finish second.
“You could see [his game coming around] the first three days in Abu Dhabi; he just quite didn’t play the same on Sunday is all,” said Rock, who watched the final round on television. “It was only a matter of time before he did something like that.
“I was just lucky [Tiger] didn’t have a round like that Sunday [against me].”
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- He started the week as a guy with visa problems.
He ended it as a bit of a rising star.
We're talking Englishman Robert Rock, who won the BMW Italian Open last Sunday, got a last-minute visa, flew to Newark, took a car service to Washington D.C. in the middle of the night and got here at 3:30 a.m. Thursday. A little more than 13 hours before his first-round tee time.
He stands to finish in the top 30 this week and people are already buzzing about his game and his tousled haircut.
If not for a third-round 76 . . . . well, it's golf and you have to count them all, but finishing at 1 over for the tournament with no practice round and only a rough idea of the course from watching an event on television . . . get where we're going?
Rock closed with a 68 and will head to Paris tonight for the Alstom Open de France in two weeks.
"I hit a lot of good shots.,'' said Rock, who closed with a 68 and will head to Paris tonight for the Saint Omer Open next week. "It was a pleasure playing with Lucas (Glover) today. That made it easier. I'm reasonably happy overall. I'm only going to finish 30th, which is not what you want when you enter a tournament, and I had better hopes after overcoming the hardest part, which was the first round.
"I'm disappointed because I thought I'd play better golf, but not knowing enough about the place just cost me."
And, he's as impressed with European Tour mate Rory McIlroy as everyone else.
"Yeah, I think Rory is showing what can be done around here,'' Rock said. "I'm not saying I played anywhere near that good, but I played some decent golf. If I would have learned a bit more about it, I would have maybe gone a bit more under.''
After his whirlwind trip, Rock was ready to slow down a bit.
"My caddie and I are going to have a beer now and chill out before our flight tonight,'' he said. "I've got a week off to do very little. There won't be much practice done, I don't think. I'll take it easy for at least a few days and then start up again because I've got a big tournament coming up the week after."
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Robert Rock finally ran out of gas.
After nine holes Friday, he hit a wall, but still shot even-par 71 and heads into the weekend at 1 under. Not bad for the 34-year-old who encountered visa problems overseas and didn't even get to Washington D.C. until 3:30 a.m. Thursday.
"I ran out of energy after nine holes to be honest,'' said Rock, who won the BMW Italian Open Sunday. "I played well on the front nine but didn’t get much out of it. I didn’t really hole any putts today but I played well.
"I took three from the edge on 18 which was disappointing and I felt every bit of energy disappear and I thought it was going to be a battle after that. That nine was very score-able, too, so it was a shame. I couldn’t get the shots to go normal distances. I just didn’t have it in me. I was trying to play cautiously and just plodded it around. It was a shame. But that happens when you have the build up I’ve had, this week and last week.''
The Italian Open was Rock's first win in eight years on the European Tour. And, it took more out of him than he thought.
"I felt it quite a bit today,” he said. “It’s a shame it happened here but I got through the nine holes OK and I’m one under for the tournament which is OK but I feel like I should have got through the second nine in two or three under. I knew I’d run out of energy at some point today. Just the interest and adrenaline got me through yesterday. When I woke up this morning I felt OK but not with a full day energy there. So I’m going to rest this afternoon and hopefully have some more for tomorrow.''
Rock napped during the car service ride from Newark Airport to D.C. Thursday morning and caught a few more winks in the locker room before his 2:19 tee time. Thursday night, he was asleep at 9 p.m.
As for the difference between the U.S. and British Opens? Rock said he was expecting a harder test. "It has been score-able,'' he said. "I haven’t played as well as I did last week. I’ve driven the ball nicely and hit some nice iron shots but I’ve not putted as well as last week. Last week was the best putting week I’ve had ever. But I’m one under and I feel I should have been six or seven.''
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- When Robert Rock saw first alternate Richie Ramsay this morning, he apologized for wasting his time and a trip to the States.
"I tried to keep him in the picture because I really didn't think I was going to make it in time,"Rock said. "So I figured he ought to have decent preparation. He was fine."
Rock was exhausted, but better than fine Thursday after a visa-delayed trip that got him to Washington D.C. at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning and an opening 70 -- on a U.S. Open course he had only seen on TV. So how did make it to the edge of the leader board just days after winning the BMW Italian Open on Sunday?
"I don't know, really,'' said the 34-year-old Rock, who spent nine months at Georgia State more than a decade ago. "I'm playing OK at the moment. (Caddie) Gary (Tilston) did a good job, guided me around, got a couple of mistakes, just from me not being comfortable, seeing where to go. I couldn't really picture the holes until we walked a hundred yards down the fairway and I could see what was going on.
"I hit the ball pretty nicely. It helped that it was a bit softer, I think. I could play similar golf to last week, and hit some decent iron shots. It was all right."
Rock didn't begin his visa process until he qualified for the Open two weeks ago and it was complicated by a drunk driving charge when he was 18.
"That's just what you have to do," he said. "It takes time to get a visa done. I had an interview Monday of Italy, it takes it time to sort it all out.
". . . .They (Embassy officials) they were really, really sympathetic. I told them that the time frame on the Monday interview and they said it will be difficult, but we'll try our best to do it and they got it done for us, so it was brilliant."
He got the visa at 4 p.m. Wednesday and was on a plane for Newark, N.J., at 8 p.m. Printed accounts said it cost him nearly $24,000 to push through the visa, but he said "it wasn't near that much." He took a car service from Newark to the D.C. area, arriving at 3:30 a.m., at an estimated cost of $1,000, napped and made his 2:19 p.m. tee time.
He played the front nine even par; the back nine 1-under. When asked how much sleep he got?
"Not a lot,'' he said. "I could do with some more, if you don't mind."
The Old Course is yielding some birdies right now. Henrik Stenson has just played his first nine holes in 32 to move to 6 under for the tournament while Sergio Garcia rolled in a 3-footer at No. 9 to get to 5 under.
Not to mention, Robert Rock and Ross Fisher have finished off rounds of 67 and 68, respectively. Rock shot 31 on the front that included an eagle at the seventh hole when he holed a pitching wedge from the fairway.
“I played nicely,” said Rock, who shot 68-78 in the first two rounds and made the cut on the number. “I was disappointed to miss from two-and-a-half feet for a par on No. 17 – then I would have had a round without a bogey. … I really had it going on the front and kept it together on the back. I was quite pleased about that.”
Fisher also faltered on the Road Hole, making a double bogey. But he drove the back of the 18th green and two-putted from 25 feet for fifth and final birdie on the inward nine.
“You got to play 18 holes of perfect golf today, but unfortunately, I played 17,” Fisher said. “What a shame. I flushed a 5-iron and thought the wind would move it. I trusted the wind, but that’s golf. Unfortunately, it went out of bounds. … It leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I was swinging it lovely.”
The early results admittedly are impressive. At the same time, though, the wind has picked up considerably in the last half hour. Something tells me the leaderboard will have a very different look when the final putts are struck on Saturday. – Helen Ross