ENGLAND’S Robert Rock did what he thought was impossible yesterday, 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.
“I can’t believe I have done that” Rock said after a nervous bogey six on the last hole had given him a one-stroke victory over McIlroy. “I was just happy to be playing with Tiger. That’s a special honour.”
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. “But Robert played great.” 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 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.
Number one Luke Donald managed only 48th, while Worksop’s Lee Westwood came in 17th.