ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Every-
one assumed that Tiger Woods would be the
man walking off with the famous Falcon trophy
at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Instead,
it was the sparsely logoed Robert Rock who
came out on top, handing in a closing 70 to
finish at 13-under par as against the 12 under
of Rory McIlroy. Woods, Thomas Bjorn and
Graeme McDowell were one shot further back.
On Saturday night, the 34-year-old Rock
was asked how he would feel when he stood on
the first tee with Woods. “I’ve no idea,” came
his bemused response. “I’ve never experienced
In fact, this unsung player was less nervous
than he had anticipated. He suspected that the
brief chat he had had with his idol after the third
round – they were joint leaders at that point –
had made the difference. “Had I not met
him until the first tee, things could
have been different,” he said.
A good opening
further helped his
cause. Rock went
ahead of Woods at
the third – and stayed
ahead on an
shots out of
had a slight
he made a
bunkered bogey at the 13th. But, thanks to a
couple of birdies, he still contrived to arrive at
the 18th two clear of McIlroy.
That was when the alarm bells sounded in
His drive finished on the edge of the water and
it was Rock standing astride a rock as he consid-
ered how best to make his escape. Gary Tilston,
one of Europe’s famous caddying twins, was hav-
ing none of it. This was no time for heroics. “Drop
that there,” he instructed, firmly.
Rock, winner of the 2011 Italian Open, did
as advised and duly hit what was his third up
the fairway. Shot No. 4 finished on the green
but 45 feet short of the flag. At that point, he
had to get down in two. To his endless relief, he
putted up to the hole’s rim to leave himself with
a nerve-free tap-in.
Rock, who teaches children free of charge at
the driving range in Lichfield, where his profes-
sional career began, admits to being something
of a “swing geek.” He had taken an academic
interest in Woods’ statistics at the start of last
week and was able to assure the player’s fans,
“He’s definitely on his way back.”
There was a lovely moment involving the two
of them at the 10th when Rock, who was wor-
ried about a marshal crunching on the stony
path, thought the man was at it again as he was
about to drive.
“Stand still please,” he called, only to dis-
cover that the culprit was Woods.
“He was fine about it,” said Rock, who made
it plain that he could not have asked for a better
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Robert Rock outplayed Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods
among others to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.