Robert Rock misses eagle putt for a 59 as he takes the lead at the Irish Open
The Englishman took home the first prize of 500,000 euros after losing a play-off to amateur Shane Lowry at the event in 2009.
Robert Rock is in pole position to claim a second winner’s cheque at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open despite never having won the tournament before.
Rock narrowly missed from 30 feet for eagle on the par-five 18th for what would have been the second 59 in European Tour history.
But he tapped in for his sixth birdie in succession at Lahinch on Saturday to complete a brilliant course record of 60, eclipsing the 63 established by Padraig Harrington on Thursday.
At 13 under par, Rock enjoys a one-shot lead over fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, with overnight leader Zander Lombard another stroke back after recovering from four-putting the fourth to card a 68.
Rock, who took home the first prize of 500,000 euros after losing a play-off to Shane Lowry at Baltray in 2009 because Lowry was still an amateur, said: “It was a fun day.
“The finish was a bit much really, I holed a really long putt on 17 and it was only when I was walking to the second shot on 18 and checked the par (of the course) that I realised it was an eagle for 59.
“My caddie was well aware. He wasn’t going to tell me but I beat him to it. Thankfully I hit a good shot and gave myself a chance for it. It was a 25-foot putt, which I actually thought I was probably going to get the way I had been putting, and maybe that’s where I went wrong.
“It’s disappointing not to make it but 60 is a great score and I’ve played rubbish so far this season so it’s nice to play better. It’s a good opportunity to get my season back on track, qualify for the Open and maybe win a tournament again which would be lovely, because it’s been a long while.”
Rock’s last European Tour title came in 2012, when he held off final-day challenges from the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The 42-year-old combines playing with coaching and counts Race to Dubai leader Matt Wallace among his clients.
“I think it’s made me realise what type of golfer I am,” Rock added. “Maybe I’m not as good as Matt Wallace right, that’s pretty obvious, but I’ve learnt some things from him as to how he’s a really tough competitor and he’s desperate to win things, which is amazing.
“But it’s made me think a lot more about my golf in general and different styles of play, and it keeps me thinking.”
Pepperell got off to a slow start but played his last seven holes in four under to remain in contention for a third European Tour title.
“I was quite angry,” Pepperell said. “It was a tough day because I had to be really patient and today was the best day I’ve swung the club this week. It was quite frustrating actually the first 11 holes.
“It seemed like every good iron shot I hit went long and every putt I hit went short. One of those days to begin with, but came to me in the end, which is nice and I feel good.
“I don’t see why I can’t go out there and shoot six under or something tomorrow and make me hard to beat.”
Lombard was understandably pleased with his response to the double bogey on the fourth and also dropping a shot on the eighth as the South African played his last 10 holes in five under.
“I lipped out on one and three from long range and then had a silly little four-putt, a brain f***, actually. Don’t know actually what I was thinking about,” Lombard said.
“But I didn’t let it get to me and said to my caddie I’m just going to stay patient, made birdie on nine and 10 and got the momentum going on the right side again.”