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Rock stars among golf's elite


Robert Rock

Robert Rock

Robert Rock

England's Robert Rock did what he thought was impossible, beating Tiger Woods head to head and grabbing only his second victory in 227 European Tour events.

With the theme tune to the "Rocky" films being sung by fans - many of them having witnessed England's cricket collapse the day before - the 34-year-old came up with a true knock-out performance.

Only 117th in the world, Rock won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship not only to get the better of Woods, but also to leave Rory McIlroy paying the price for his two-shot penalty on Friday. Rock, who took a nervous bogey six on the last but finished one stroke ahead of McIlroy, said on Sky Sports: "I really can't believe I have done that."

He added: "I was just very happy to be playing with Tiger. That's a special honour in itself."

While he shot a two-under-par 70 to finish 13 under, Woods scrambled his way to a 72 and instead of recording a second successive victory on the comeback trail had to settle for a share of third place with Graeme McDowell and Thomas Bjorn.

"I was just a touch off," said the former world number one, who hit only one fairway on the back nine and only six greens in regulation all day. "But Robert played great. He made a couple of key up-and-downs and a couple of beautiful iron shots down the stretch."

McIlroy's closing birdie for a 69 looked as if it might give him a play-off when Rock's drive down the same hole headed towards the lake. It stopped short of the water, but in the hazard amongst rocks and plants and, with a two-shot lead, he wisely elected to take a penalty drop.

Short of the green in three, his pitch came up 25 feet short and still left him with work to do, but after holing birdie putts from 10 and six feet at the 14th and 16th his touch did not let him down and two putts completed the greatest day of his career.

McIlroy was runner-up for the second year running, but will remember this one for the incident when he brushed sand away just off the green midway through his second round.

For years Rock worked in the Swingers Golf Centre in Tamworth, "selling Mars bars and watching Tiger win majors". He was 26 before he made it onto the European Tour and 34 when he finally tasted success at last year's Italian Open. He said: "It's been a steady progression and I've worked hard, but I didn't think this would happen."