Solid Rock prevents Tiger from desert win

Solid Rock prevents Tiger from desert win

LONDON - Reuters
Solid Rock prevents Tiger from desert win

Solid Rock prevents Tiger from desert win British player Robert Rock emerges as a surprise winner at the expense of favorite Tiger Woods at the Abu Dhabi Championship. REUTERS photo

A golfing fairytale came true when little-known Briton Robert Rock outplayed 14-times major winner Tiger Woods in a final round shootout to land the Abu Dhabi Championship title.

Ten years ago, Rock was selling confectionery and tee pegs behind the counter of a club shop near Birmingham but in the Middle East on Jan. 29, he held his nerve over the closing holes to eclipse the finest players in the modern-day game.

“It’s pretty hard to believe I managed to win,” the 34-year-old Englishman told reporters after completing a one-stroke victory. “It hasn’t sunk in what I achieved.

“I need a few days to contemplate winning this. It was such a good field,” he added, referring to Woods and the top four players in the world rankings - Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.

Rock, who has climbed to 55th in the world from number 117 after his surprise Abu Dhabi win, said he was jittery at the prospect of playing alongside former number one Woods in the final round.

“I was a little nervous on the way to the course,” last year’s Italian Open champion added. “I was struggling because I was playing with Tiger - that’s a pretty big deal.

“But I think chatting to Tiger briefly on Saturday helped. It would have been harder if the first time I met him was on the first tee.”

The second victory of Rock’s career has earned him a place at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio in August and the Champions Tournament in China in November.

Rock is a rarity among golfers in that he rarely wears headgear.

“I don’t like playing in a hat,” he said. “Sometimes places we go where it’s very hot and sunny I might be tempted to wear a visor but I don’t like doing it.”