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."