May 23, 2003
GORDON SIMPSON: We have with us Robert Rock who is just one shot off the lead, 7-under par. Robert, the last occupant of that seat today was Ernie Els, and now here you are sitting in the same seat and one ahead of the world No. 2. Just give us an idea of how you are feeling at this exact moment in the championship.
ROBERT ROCK: A little surprised to be in here, I know that. I played nicely today. I'm very, very happy with where I am on the leaderboard. Just hope I can keep playing the same sort of golf for the next two days.
GORDON SIMPSON: Are you surprised to be where you are in the championship or did you feel your golf was good after the B&H?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, I didn't putt very well at the Benson and Hedges, but started off nicely after holing some good, long putts. The rest of the game stayed the same. Once the putting was okay, I was fine, I think. I was watching the leaderboard quite a lot today, so quite aware of how I was doing. Let it slip, halfway around, went back to 4-under, but I did that quite a lot at the Benson and Hedges. I'd get go a few under par and then let it slip back to level and then was determined to try to keep moving under par.
Q. So you were fully aware on the 18th you had a putt there to tie the halfway lead?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, I does. I think I would have been the leader if I had got to nine or ten but it was a surprise to have a putt to try to tie the leader. I had a good putt there, actually. Just went by the edge.
Q. How far was the putt?
ROBERT ROCK: About ten foot, maybe 11. Haven't made much use of the par 5s so far this week. Plan was to hopefully birdie most of the par 5s but haven't done that at all. Parred 17 with a really poor chip and not a great pitch on the last. Should really make more of those.
Q. Is this nerve-wracking yet?
ROBERT ROCK: This is.
Q. On the course?
ROBERT ROCK: I'm playing with a good friend, Adam, McCandless, he's been caddying for me. He's been fantastic. I've known Chris Orr for a few years as well, he's from the Midland region. On the course, apart from the spectators and TV, it felt a little bit like a normal game. It was nice to play with some people you know. He was very supportive, as well, as we were going around. He was struggling a little bit, so that was very nice of him.
Q. Did the crowds start to get bigger as the round went on?
ROBERT ROCK: Not really, no. I think they were mainly following Martin Thompson because he's a local. Same group of people as yesterday, really.
Q. After The Belfry and now here, what next?
ROBERT ROCK: I really don't know. I don't know whether I'll be out again for a tournament or not. I haven't got a tour card. I'm relying on invitations.
Q. Will you be going for one?
ROBERT ROCK: More than likely, yeah. I think so.
GORDON SIMPSON: Did you pay your affiliate membership before the B&H.
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah.
GORDON SIMPSON: So clearly you had an idea in your mind that you could perform at a higher level to try to get the card?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, I thought if I had an opportunity to play in enough events, I might be able to win enough money to get me straight to the final stage of Tour School.
Q. What's your normal week's work in Tamworth? Do you just teach people how to swing?
ROBERT ROCK: A little bit of teaching. Mainly just playing Midland region tournaments, just Pro-Ams and the odd mini-Tour event, one or two-day tournament.
Q. Did you have something planned for this weekend?
ROBERT ROCK: Did I have something planned? What, other than being here? No. (Laughter.)
Q. This time is not the first time we have seen your name. You played in events last year and did okay.
ROBERT ROCK: Played the Benson & Hedges last year and the English Open. Missed five cuts. Got a taste of what it's like to play at the big tournaments, didn't play very well.
GORDON SIMPSON: What was your knowledge of Wentworth before this week?
ROBERT ROCK: I had two practice rounds through the winter.
GORDON SIMPSON: You came here specifically, did you?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, me and Adam came down just to have a look around. Obviously watched it a lot on TV over the years, but had not played it. I think we were here for January or February, just a couple of practice rounds.
Q. You qualified from the Midland region?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah.
Q. Did you win anything in the Midlands?
ROBERT ROCK: I won on Midland Professionals.
Q. Is that the biggest event you've actually won so far?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah. I won the British York Course Championship, but that was maybe three years ago now, at Alcott Hall, near that way.
Q. What was the first prize in the Midland Professionals?
ROBERT ROCK: About two and a half thousand.
Q. Financially, you're okay at the moment?
ROBERT ROCK: Don't know. (Laughter.) What do you call okay? I'm not in debt.
Q. But not about to buy a house in the States?
ROBERT ROCK: I've seen some nice ones. (Laughter.) No. Not at all.
GORDON SIMPSON: Have you tried to qualify for the Tour in the past.
ROBERT ROCK: I think in 1998 and '99. I didn't get through stage one. I wasn't good enough for that one so I thought I would wait until I thought I was somewhere near good enough to have another go. It's quite expensive to have a go at Tour School. You can't try that too many times and fail.
GORDON SIMPSON: Why are you better now, do you think? Why are you better equipped?
ROBERT ROCK: I've worked a lot on my short game and that's why I was disappointed in the last two holes here; four chips to finish up. My chipping has gotten a lot better. I wouldn't say it's very good now but it's maybe average.
Q. What about the rest of your game?
ROBERT ROCK: The driving is probably the best part of the game now, driver and long irons.
Q. Do you hit it far?
ROBERT ROCK: Oh, I couldn't tell you. I haven't really been doing the stats.
Q. What would your career path be? What have you done prior to being here?
ROBERT ROCK: Just gone through the PGA chain and qualified two or three years ago.
Q. So you are an assistant somewhere?
ROBERT ROCK: I was an assistant at English Field. Worked for Adam who is caddying for me, now at the Swingers Golf Centre in English Field.
Q. How old are you?
ROBERT ROCK: 26.
Q. Do you play any other games or have you ever played any other games?
ROBERT ROCK: Sports?
ROBERT ROCK: No.
Q. Who started you off then?
ROBERT ROCK: Just a few friends that moved into where I lived. Our families played golf and just started with them. They took me to the local courses. I was probably about 11 or 12.
Q. What handicap, at 15, for instance, what were you playing off?
ROBERT ROCK: Four or five.
Q. When did you get down to scratch?
ROBERT ROCK: When I was 18. I was 18 and I turned pro shortly after that.
Q. Do you play any Rich County golf?
ROBERT ROCK: I played a lot of county juniors for Stratfordshire. I didn't play on the first tee much.
Q. Describe Swingers Golf Centre.
ROBERT ROCK: It's a driving range, nine-hole golf course, par 3 course, three or four teaching pros there, all good friends with them.
Q. And are you one of the teaching pros there?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, I don't do as much teaching as the other guys. Three of the guys that teach there teach nearly full-time there. They play, similar sort of thing.
Q. Who teaches you?
ROBERT ROCK: A mixture of myself and a few of the friends that I work with. Adam, who caddies for me, he used to be the assistant pro at the club where I started, so he's known my game for a long time. And I have a friend, Taylor, at Swingers, not one particular person.
Q. Could you sum up your emotions when you came down 18 and saw your name on the leaderboard among Els, Woosnam; what was going through your mind then?
ROBERT ROCK: I had a quick look but didn't really want to finish off bogey, so I got a difficult pitch and some putting left to do so you can't really afford to look at it for too long.
Q. Will you be as nervous on the first tee as you say you are now?
ROBERT ROCK: Tomorrow? Probably not as nervous as this, no.
Q. What were your expectations coming in, hopes?
ROBERT ROCK: I didn't really have any at the start of the year. Having played quite well at the Benson and Hedges, I thought that Top-10 sounds lovely. So maybe I can change that.
Q. What are you going to do now, from now until you get back on the first tee tomorrow?
ROBERT ROCK: Not much.
GORDON SIMPSON: Are you living down here this week?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, I'm staying just around the corner.
Q. In a bed and breakfast or what?
ROBERT ROCK: It's a public hotel type thing, just through the traffic lights out here. Wheatsheaf, yeah.
Q. How much does it cost a night to stay there?
ROBERT ROCK: Don't know. Haven't had the bill yet. Not sure. I guess about 100 pounds, something like that.
Q. Are you at a stage where you still stargaze on the driving range; look who is there and choose your spot?
ROBERT ROCK: A little bit, yeah.
Q. What's that like?
ROBERT ROCK: It's okay once you start hitting balls and you connect with a few, okay. Then you settle down a little bit.
Q. Did any of them introduce themselves to you or ask you who you were?
ROBERT ROCK: I know a few, and I was lucky enough to play with Seve on Tuesday, so that was nice. A few of the guys I played with in events last year and at the Benson & Hedges, they have been nice to me.
Q. How was Seve's parting after the last round?
ROBERT ROCK: Just good luck, really. He was very good on Tuesday. It was nice to play with him. Watched him hit a lot of shots around the greens and that was very useful. I was very captive watching when he was playing around the greens.
Q. Do you expect to see any instant sponsorship deal for tomorrow?
ROBERT ROCK: Hope so.
Q. Have you not got anybody lined up?
ROBERT ROCK: Not really.
Q. Does the clubhouse sponsor you or do you just work there?
ROBERT ROCK: No, I'm just attached there through the PGA. You have to have an attachment to play the regional PGA events. I'm just attached there and do a little bit of teaching.
Q. What have you won this year money-wise?
ROBERT ROCK: I had a decent check at Benson and Hedges, just a few mini-Tour events. I haven't added it up. I don't know. I don't really know.
Q. Could we get the birdies.
ROBERT ROCK: Eagled the 4th with a drive and a 5-iron to about a 25 or 30-foot putt. Then I birdied the 5th straight after. That was a 4-iron to about two feet. That was nice. Bogeyed the 7th. Parred 8 and 9. Bogeyed 10 with an awful chip shot with an attempt that was really poor. Birdied 12. Birdied 15 and 16. 15 was about ten feet and 16 was a bit long, it was about 30 feet. That was quite nice. Didn't really expect that one.
GORDON SIMPSON: Just a bit frustrating --
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, you've got two easy par 5s. I suppose I could have birdied both of those and that puts me in the lead, but I'll take 7, that's good for today I think.
Q. Did you actually say that to yourself on 17?
ROBERT ROCK: Yeah, I hit a really good drive and a good 4-iron. It was pretty much right on line with the middle of the flag, straight down the line with the trees in back and it ran through the back of the green. Then chipped it up to ten feet which. Then my drive through 18 ran through the bunker so that took out much of a chance of a birdie. Made a good pitch and a putt for that.
GORDON SIMPSON: Robert, it's nice to see you in here. Well done and maybe tomorrow, we can repeat the process. Thanks very much.
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