Rock goes from selling Mars bars to taming Tiger


Abu Dhabi

He doesn't own a hat, but he does have the scalp which every golf professional still craves. Robert Rock will now be known as the unlikely Englishman who put Tiger Woods on the canvas and, because of that, the crowd's rendition of the theme tune to Rocky when he tapped in was entirely justified.

So much for the eye of the Tiger; so much for his legendary status as the great converter of third-round leads. For just the ninth time in 62 tournaments, Woods could not turn the lead, or a share of the lead, after 54 holes into a title. And so the waiting continues for his first official victory since that scandal broke more than two years ago.

It was difficult not to concentrate on the plight of Woods, as the form of his first three days became a desert desertee and as the question mark still hovered above that famous red shirt. But in Rock, there is a modern fairy tale to capture any imagination. What was he known for before this win?

"Not much," he replied. This genuinely will be a life-changing moment for the laid-back midlander, who shoots up the Ryder Cup points list to sixth and into the world's top 60.

He has vowed to remain visor-free, regardless of any sponsors opportunities, and in the interests of individuality on these fairways we can hope he stands by the pledge. Yet if he does not, do not castigate. Rock is one of the game's dreamers, a poor man's Ian Poulter, who under a decade ago was working at a driving range, "selling Mars bars, watching Tiger win majors" and hoping to play a couple of European Tour events inhis career. With two wins in 272 Tour events, it obviously has not been the shortest journey from Lichfield to wonderland; but the awe in his gaze showed it has been worth it.

"I really can't believe I've done that today," he said, after beating Rory McIlroy by a stroke. "I thought this would be beyond me. My first win last year [at the Italian Open] was special, but this is different. It's a big tournament, a great field and just to play with Tiger today was a honour itself. It's something I'll never forget. Who knows, this could be the biggest thing ever to happen to me."

He was nervous on that first tee; of course he was. "I was struggling because I was going to play with Tiger Woods, it was my first time, and it was a going to be a big deal," said Rock. Somehow he managed to make contact with his driver and managed to match Woods's early back-to-back birdies. On the second, Woods lifted his arm when a 50-footer for birdie fell. Rock followed him in from four feet and then matched his three on the next as well.

"I needed that to keep pace with him," said Rock. "And then he dropped a couple which gave me a bit of space."

The Woods of yore would never have hit "the two bad shots, followed by the two bad pitches" on the fourth and fifth. Just as he would never have hit two fairways all day and only five greens in regulation. Afterwards, Woods talked about "hitting the ball beautifully all week", and of being "very pleased". His expression hinted at a contrasting emotion – frustration. He couldn't get it done.

Woods did claw Rock's lead back to one when the pacesetter bogeyed the 13th and, with a pack including the likes of the eventual runner-up McIlroy in pursuit, Rock's nerve was put under severe scrutiny. But in nature as in his name, he birdied the 14th from the fairway bunker and after that the 16th. "They're two of the hardest holes on the course today," said an impressed McIlroy.

There were tense moments when Rock hit to water's edge on the par-five 18th, but he had a two-shot cushion by then and was able to take a drop and play for a bogey up the fairway. A three-putt was still a possibility, however. Even though he claimed he did not know how hard he was hitting, it rolled to within a few inches of the hole. With a two-under-par 70, he had beaten Woods, on the final round by two shots and as the leaderboard showed Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell alongside Woods in third, his success only looked better and better on examination. Naturally, there will be those who insist McIlroy would have won but for the two-shot penalty he incurred when careless clearing away the sand in front of his ball. But McIlroy wasn't about to go in for some self-flagellation. "They've nicknamed me Basil Brush and it did cost me in the end but it's still not a bad way to start the season," said McIlroy who also came second here last year. "I'm not going to lose any sleep."

Will Woods? He would not be the competitor he once was if he did not. Perhaps he will recall the instant on the 10th tee. Two marshals were making a clatter with their spikes on the concrete and when about to drive, Rock heard the noise again. "I assumed it was the same guys and shouted out 'Stand still!'" said Rock. "But then I looked up and realised it was Tiger walking up to the tee. He laughed and stood still, but I shouldn't have done it."

So Rock left Woods standing. He left them all standing. Sylvester Stallone should know there's still life left in the old script yet.

Final leaderboard

275 R Rock (Eng)

276 R McIlroy (NIrl)

277 T Bjorn (Den), G McDowell (NIrl), T Woods (US)

278 G Coetzee (SA), M Manassero (It)

279 K Horne (SA), P Lawrie (Sco), F Molinari (It), T Olesen (Den)

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Dennis Rodman has confirmed he is not going to the Middle East to 'talk to with the leaders of Isis' as claimed in a recent satirical report
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam