Abu Dhabi: Robert Rock is confident he can rework his magic at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the venue where he experienced “the best moment of his life’ last year.”
In the 2012 edition here at the National Course, Rock, with both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in pursuit, kept his cool to post only his second career win.
“I certainly feel like I can win again,” said the Staffordshire-born world number 104.
“Everything fell into place for me last year and I’ll never forget holding off Tiger down the stretch. That scenario is about as high-pressure as you can get and at the end I couldn’t believe it.”
Ranked 117th last year, Rock shot a two-under 70 on the final day for an overall 13-under 275 to beat the McIlroy by a shot and finish ahead of Tiger by two strokes.
“Winning your first tournament is always special but Abu Dhabi still represents the biggest win of my career. As always, Abu Dhabi has put together a world-class field so winning again will be tough - everyone wants my trophy.
“Defending would be unbelievable and that’s the aim this week. I’ve won this tournament before, so why not again? I know I can do it – being defending champion carries no pressure for me,” said Rock, as he bids to join Martin Kaymer who is the only one to defend the Falcon trophy.
Having signed a sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi’s iconic Emirates Palace on the back of his landmark win last year, Rock revealed the familiar palatial surroundings at one of the emirate’s most opulent addresses has left him purring for the Championship to tee-off.
“Being back at Emirates Palace is the icing on the cake,” said Rock, who signed a sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi hotel after his win last year.
“I been in talks with the people here all throughout the year and we’ve progressed so many ideas, including the ins and outs of my academy. Now we can have a few more discussions and, hopefully, we’ll be able to talk about it as I defend my title – the Falcon is one trophy I do not want to give back.”
The capital is meanwhile getting ready to welcome the golf stars which include McIlroy, Woods, world number four Justin Rose, number nine Jason Dufner, and Ernie Els, the reigning Open champion for the $2.7 million (Dh9.9 million) 4-day event.
Commenting on the changes to the course this year, Andrew Whittaker, the course superintendent, said: “Each year we always look to improve and enhance the features that already exist at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. This year has been no different with green extensions made to five greens to provide more pin placements, new tees on holes 1 and 10 and enhancements to the landscaping around the golf course.”
“We always look to refine our cultural practices each year in order to produce and provide better quality and visually more appealing playing surfaces,” he added.