Robert Rock
Robert Rock won the Abu Dhabi Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in 2012 Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Former Abu Dhabi Championship winner Robert Rock made a remarkable comeback to competitive action by securing his place in the U.S. Open through Final Qualifying at Walton Heath.

The Englishman, who stepped back from playing on the DP World Tour after the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, carded rounds of 69-66 to finish on nine under par and secure one of nine spots available into the third Major Championship of the season.

“It’s difficult to describe, I really didn’t have any thoughts of qualifying,” said Rock, who will play in the U.S. Open for the first time in 12 years.

“I thought it was my last chance of playing this event and a good opportunity to see where my game was having been out of it for a couple of years. I thought while I could still enter, I’d see where I’d fit. I played with James Morrison and had such a good day.

“I wasn’t sure I could play two rounds, I’ve been playing mostly nine holes and then the back nine has hurt because my back isn’t the best at the moment. It did today, I was struggling on the back nine. Thankfully my mate came to push the trolley. I didn’t think I’d make 36, but it’s amazing what making a few putts does.”

Rock is fondly remembered in the region for going toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods, before coming out on top in the final round of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Championship.

Having started the final round level with the then 14-time Major champion, Rock displayed nerves of steel to keep a 10-strong chasing pack, which included Woods and Rory McIlroy, at bay to get his hands on the Falcon Trophy at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Since putting away his clubs two years ago, the 47-year-old has focused on building his academy and junior tour to great success.

As well as his Robert Rock Golf Academy in Silvermere, Surrey, England, Rock has been a frequent visit to Abu Dhabi Golf Club after launching events at the club as well as assisting the development of the club’s junior programme and mentoring the club’s professionals.

He was joined on that number by Sam Bairstow, who holed a nervy seven-footer for par on the 36th hole to sign for rounds of 68-67, avoiding the prospect of a play-off.

Grant Forrest, Richard Mansell, Brandon Robinson-Thompson, Sam Bairstow, Matteo Manassero, Edoardo Molinari, Tom McKibbin and Jason Scrivener also secured their spots through the qualifier and will join Rock at Pinehurst No.2 next month.