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January 29, 2012

Robert Rock


SCOTT CROCKETT:  Robert, many, many congratulations.  What a truly wonderful performance.  You must be absolutely delighted.  Just try and sum up your feelings as you sit here as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Champion.
ROBERT ROCK:  It's pretty hard to believe that I managed to win today.  Very surprised.  I played good.  So I guess I had a chance from early on, a couple of birdies made the day feel a little bit easier.
But it's difficult playing with Tiger.  You expect almost every shot to threaten to go in.  It felt a lot of pressure and couldn't afford any lapses in concentration at all.  So a lot of hard work but very happy now.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  There were a couple of dicey moments, obviously the bogey at 13 and to bounce back with a birdie was important, wasn't it.
ROBERT ROCK:  Yeah, yeah, I didn't hit that bad a tee shot on 13 but I drifted into the bunker and I didn't have much of an opportunity to get it on the green out of the bunker.  It just had to go really high and I was hoping it would make it to the front but didn't get anywhere near.  Left myself a 50‑yard shot I'm not very good at and been practicing a bit this week, but didn't really show.  That was a pretty poor bogey.
But then I hit a really good fairway bunker shot on 14 that went to about ten foot and I thought, if I make this, then I fancy my chances.  So thankfully that went in.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  A nice regulation play up the last, no worries.
ROBERT ROCK:  Birdie on 16 I thought had given me a bit of room but it's a tricky hole that last one.  If you don't knock it in the fairway off the tee, there's a lot of hazard to consider; where do you put your next shot.  Gary talked me into the right play I think, and turned out okay.  I miss‑hit the third shot slightly but it ended up in the fairway in a pretty decent position.
Then I had that long putt to 2‑putt, and I really didn't have a clue how hard I was hitting it.  I just hoped that it would turnout okay.  I'm pretty sure the line was all right but I was shaking a bit by then.  So nice to see it finish just a few inches away.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  Has it begun to sink in, what you've achieved here?
ROBERT ROCK:  No idea.  Yeah, not just yet.  I think give me a few days to contemplate on winning this.  It's such a good field and it's somewhere I've not really played well at before, so it's a surprise.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  And you're going home tonight; you weren't playing in Qatar?
ROBERT ROCK:  No, I'm not playing in Qatar.  I'm going home, yeah.

Q.  How did you feel at the first tee?
ROBERT ROCK:  Not as bad as I thought I was going to.  I was away quite early and was a little nervous on the way here.  But I think chatting to Tiger briefly yesterday did help.  It would have been harder if that had been the first time I had met him on the first tee.  I think I would have been struggling a little bit more.
And to hit a solid drive down the first just settled me down pretty much straightaway.

Q.  When in those early stages Tiger holed his monster putt and followed suit with a birdie; were you thinking, this guy is insane and whatever I do he's going to get one over me today?
ROBERT ROCK:  I felt like I had to keep it up all day.  The birdie he made down the second was pretty cool.  He had a tricky shot from under the tree and that probably should have got closer, but it didn't really bounce through the fairway very well.  But an amazing putt.  And I hit a nice shot on the second pretty close but another good shot out of the rough on the third.
I needed that really to keep pace with him.  And then he dropped a couple after that, and gave me a bit of space.

Q.  You said yesterday that you idolized Tiger and what he did.  Out there today, were you trying to play with within yourself or were there times you were trying to impress him as well?
ROBERT ROCK:  No, I was perfectly prepared to let him do whatever he wanted.  If he was going to shoot 8‑ , 9‑under par and beat me by miles, that would have been fine by me.  I was just trying to hit decent shots and settle into the round okay.
But he was a pleasure to play with.  He was really, really cool.

Q.  Did you expect, or were you surprised Tiger went off the boil so quickly and the way that he did finish?
ROBERT ROCK:  Yes and no.  It's a tricky course.  If you're in the rough, there's not many ways to attack flags, and around the greens is tough, as well.
I was just focusing on trying to hit fairways and then hit my iron shots as good as I have been and give myself chances at birdies.  Both Tiger and Peter struggled on occasions on a few holes and I managed to keep my ball in the right position and didn't put myself under too much stress until the last, which was a relief.

Q.  I know you said he was a pleasure to play with.  I just wondered, do you feel he goes into a zone that can be quite unsettling to deal with sometimes or were you conscious of that at any point?
ROBERT ROCK:  Not at all, no.  He was just playing his game.  He was as focused as he always is, and I expected that, watched him plenty of times.

Q.  Very quick follow‑up, I know a couple of times on the back nine your led was cut; just wondered how you felt at those points?
ROBERT ROCK:  Wasn't an awful lot I could do about the bogey I made on 13.  I was just out of position.  So I had to accept that one.
But the 14th was a very, very tough hole.  So I was relieved that the tee shot went in the bunker and I got a pretty decent lie in the bunker.  So that was not far off as being in good shape in the fairway.  I was in control of my second shot there, and to birdie that hole turned it around quickly for me.

Q.  You'll be known now as the guy who saw off Tiger at Abu Dhabi; what do you think you're best known for on The European Tour, or even before today?
ROBERT ROCK:  Not much.  (Laughter).
It's been a heck of a long time and not really‑‑ until last year, had not won a tournament.

Q.  You said that this had not really sunk in yet but can you shed a bit of light on where this ranks in your career achievements?  And the second part, where do you see yourself going from here then?  Do you hope Abu Dhabi will be a springboard for Ryder Cup?
ROBERT ROCK:  Well, the first tournament that I won last year was‑‑ right now, still feels as important, because it was very, very hard to do.  And this one is special for its own reasons now.  It's a bigger tournament, a better field and to play with Tiger today was something that I'll never forget.
So the two are slightly separate memories but both really, really good.

Q.  If you needed a 5 up the last to win, do you think you would have taken that shot on out of the hazard?
ROBERT ROCK:  Probably, yeah.  Probably.  It was a 50/50 shot.  But the line I had, it was very close to one of the larger rocks in front of me.  I could have hit the ball okay but I was having to take it a long way right and it would have had to carry quite a lot of the water.  And there was a chance that it would have clipped the rock on the way out.

Q.  When you're back at the driving range, what sort of thoughts did you have that would sustain you and sort of keep the dream alive that you would make it on the Tour?  Were you watching at any time and fantasizing that you might be playing with him, never mind beating him.
ROBERT ROCK:  Not really.  I was just playing local PGA events like all club pros do, and I was trying to do my best in those at the time really.  It was a slim chance to play my way into some European Tour events through that route, and that was my goal while I was doing that, just to have some‑‑ probably at that point, I was just thinking, I hope I get to play a few European Tour events in my golf career.  So no grand plans.

Q.  Sounds like you were battling your nerves this morning pretty bad.  Is that something you normally do or was it just the circumstances of being with Tiger and if so how would you rate this compared to some of your other big events?
ROBERT ROCK:  Yeah, I was just struggling because I was playing with Tiger.  That was going to be a pretty big deal.  But I managed to cope okay.  I think things can spiral out of control a little bit if you start off hitting a few bad shots early on and then things can get on top of you.  Thankfully I hit two solid shots down the first and a good wedge into the second, and I felt like my game that I had earlier in the week, it still turned up.  So that calmed me down a lot.

Q.  You started off this year with a couple of good results and now this win.  Did you resolve to do something this year and be known for something other than, "Not much"?
ROBERT ROCK:  No, I felt like I got better towards the end of last year.  I had a good tournament in Dubai.  That was a tournament that I had not really done well at in the past and putted well there.  I felt like if that was a little bit of a confidence boost, that I could play well in that type of course; and this is similar.
And I haven't really played this course well in the past, but, I knew I had got a little better and the experience in Dubai made me believe that it can happen.  It doesn't have to happen but it can happen.  I can play decent golf around these type of courses.  And two good results in South Africa made me feel that form was still improving from the end of last year.

Q.  Can you just remind us why at version to wearing the hat, and if this victory prompts a good sponsorship offer, will you think again?
ROBERT ROCK:  Don't know.  I've just not‑‑ I don't like playing in a hat every day.  Sometimes places we go where it's very hot and sunny, I might be tempted to wear a visor sometimes.  But I just don't like doing it.  So no need, I don't think.

Q.  What does this victory say to other guys who might be back at England working at a driving range or club pro job?  How thin is the line, or how thick is the line to cross over for those guys?
ROBERT ROCK:  It seems a long, long way away when you are in that position.  And if you look at it as one big leap, it doesn't seem possible.
But if you go along the right routes and have a plan for it, then it is doable.  It's not the easiest way to do it; working at golf clubs sort of seems like you would be playing golf a lot but you don't.  That makes it all good.

Q.  Last year you qualified for the U.S. Open and there was some Visa issues and things like that; you still made it.  But now, after this, you are going to get a lot more opportunities like that, so are you prepared for that already?
ROBERT ROCK:  I am, actually.  I'm ready for that now, yeah.  I think I've got a five‑ or ten‑year Visa now, so I should be all right.  (Laughter).

Q.  And events you're really looking forward to, I believe you qualify for the Shanghai WGC event and maybe some majors.
ROBERT ROCK:  I don't know what this gets me in yet.  As far as I'm aware of, I've got to qualify for The Open and the U.S. Open, and the US PGA.
So if this helps me get in some of those, then that's fantastic.

Q.  Coming down the back nine, throughout the day, you had three bogeys and 13 you had that bogey; but did it help you, the way Tiger was playing, he was just missing a lot of his drives and even some of his chips, did that help you kind of overcome when you missed, saying, okay, well, he's not on the best of his game, I can persevere?
ROBERT ROCK:  Yeah, maybe, maybe.  He was left with some really tough chip shots that probably weren't doable.  He hit some that pitched right on the edge of the greens and around 15 feet, and that's as good as he could have done in some spots.
The course is like that.  The rough is really thick around the sides of the greens, and the greens are firm.  So chipping onto them is very, very difficult.

Q.  What's the first impact that Tiger had on you when you were watching him on TV?
ROBERT ROCK:  The first impact?

Q.  What were you watching when he became your hero?
ROBERT ROCK:  I think I watched his very first tournament win.  And then obviously his first Masters win.  But I've watched pretty much everything he's done.
So, yeah, everybody's a fan of Tiger Woods.  He's won 98 tournaments, 14 majors.  That's pretty impressive.

Q.  Again, is this something, a victory like this, is this something 20 or 30 years you're going to be sitting in a pub saying, 'I beat Tiger Woods'?
ROBERT ROCK:  I hope so, yeah, I hope so.  (Laughter).

Q.  Do you think this could be the biggest‑‑ no matter what else you do, will this be the biggest thing that ever happens?
ROBERT ROCK:  It could be, yeah.  It could be.

Q.  Just to follow up on that, as I said, Tiger didn't have the best game today but what did you think of his game and do you think he is coming back?
ROBERT ROCK:  Oh, yeah, for sure.  I'm quite a bit of a golf swing‑‑ I have an interest in that and I'm pretty convinced that Sean Foley knows what he's doing.  He's definitely playing better.  Maybe didn't play as well as he would have liked to today, but his stats earlier in the week, his driving accuracy was good, his greens in regulation was good and he was hitting the ball very well.  So there's no doubt about that I think.

Q.  Just a word on the crowds over the last few days, apparently the biggest crowd in this part of the world for a tournament; is that encouragement?
ROBERT ROCK:  Yeah, there's some crazy guys out there shouting some weird stuff.  (Laughter) But it was pretty funny on occasions.  I got a lot of support, quite surprising.  It was nice, yeah.

Q.  You said you were a bit of a golf swing nerd.

Q.  What was off in Tiger's swing today that you might have spotted?
ROBERT ROCK:  Just pretty tricky shots that you have to face.  It's hard to hit fairways.  There's a few crosswinds and they are just tough shots to hit.  I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with his swing at all.  I think it just didn't quite go his way, and it was my day, thankfully for me.

Q.  When did you leave the club pro ranks, and what was the last one you worked at?
ROBERT ROCK:  I worked at the driving range, which I've now set up a golf academy at in Lichfield.  That was‑‑ the last time I worked there was probably 2002‑ish, something like that.  But it's still local to me so I still go down there and practice.
And now I've got my own academy down there, so that's been pretty nice.

Q.  Were you guys put on the clock between 7 and 8, and did that upset your rhythm anyway?
ROBERT ROCK:  No.  We were told we were out of position but we were sort of going at the right pace.  We had to‑‑ I think we waited, we had a good search for Peter's ball on 5, so that took us out of position.  We might have been a little bit out of position before that and that dropped us back another five minutes.  But we maintained the right pace after that.

Q.  Didn't affect your rhythm?

Q.  And you were saying in here yesterday that you didn't know how you were going to handle the first tee and the second tee and looking at it today, you handled it really well.  Did you surprise yourself by the way in which you handled it and what have you taught yourself or what have you learned about yourself today?
ROBERT ROCK:  It doesn't get an awful lot harder than playing with Tiger Woods.  So I guess barring a major championship, I know I can handle that again.  So that's pretty nice to know.

Q.  On a separate note, did you follow England's loss yesterday, and what did you think of the‑‑
ROBERT ROCK:  No, no.  I'm not really a cricket or football fan really.  So I didn't‑‑ I saw it on the news this morning, but I'm not‑‑ I can't comment on that really.

Q.  But you gave myself a lot of joy to a lot of cricket fans who came today to the golf course.
ROBERT ROCK:  Well, that's pretty good then.  At least I've done that.

Q.  What's your idea of a good celebration?
ROBERT ROCK:  Don't know.  Can't really have a full night tonight because I'm flying back at two o'clock.  But there will be one, I promise you that.

Q.  Congratulation, you said you had been looking at Tiger's stats; do you normally look at other players' stats to see how they are playing when you are about to play with them?
ROBERT ROCK:  Yeah, I was interested in Tiger Woods' stats this week.  It's a tough course and he was‑‑ I didn't look at yesterday's stats, but the first two days, I think he was up there in greens in regulation.  Just as a thing to do, when you finish playing.  I don't take too much notice of them but I like reading them.

Q.  When you won The Italian Open, you promised to buy yourself a bottle of posh brandy‑‑
ROBERT ROCK:  Has not happened.  I was talking about that last night with Jamie Donaldson.  I might do that when I see one.

Q.  Do you know who the chap was who kept on trying to get a chant going of "Rocky, Rocky?"
ROBERT ROCK:  No, I don't know.

Q.  Never seen him before?
ROBERT ROCK:  Thankfully no.  (Laughter).

Q.  There was a bit of an exchange between you and Tiger on the 10th tee.  What happened there?
ROBERT ROCK:  Oh, yeah.  That's embarrassing actually.  There was a couple of marshals had gone off the side of the tee and they were walking around on some, I don't know what the ground was, but it was making quite a bit of noise.  So I thought, when I get ready to hit my iron shot and I heard the same thing, and just assumed it was the guy I was looking at; and it was Tiger walking back and I shouted, "Stand still, please."  (Laughter)

Q.  What did he say?
ROBERT ROCK:  He just laughed and he was fine.  Shouldn't have done that.  
ROBERT ROCK:  Yeah, he was all right.

Q.  When Yang beat Woods in 2009 on Sunday at the PGA, he thought he really benefitted from not having been a big name before because he didn't get drawn into trying to out‑do Tiger.  I wonder if you share at all that?
ROBERT ROCK:  I don't really know.  I was just pretty determined to try and play the way I was playing and hopefully without being too nervous, I could continue to hit some decent shots.
But, he's such a good player that you‑‑ that if he decides to play his very, very best, you're probably not going to beat him.  So there's not much you can do.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  Robert, many, many congratulations, a truly wonderful performance.  Best of luck the rest of the season.

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