If Sunday was supposed to mark the return of Tiger Woods to golf supremacy, Robert Rock apparently didn’t get the memo. In a stunning twist, it was the unheralded 34-year-old Englishman, not the 36-year-old golfing legend, who came out on top.
Rock kept his opponents at bay the whole day, carrying a three-shot lead to the 72nd hole, and although he had his troubles at the last, a tap-in bogey secured him a 13-under total and just his second worldwide victory.
The result was surprising for golf fans that expected Woods, golf’s preeminent star, to shine again. It was a matchup of one of golf’s greatest all-time players versus a man who was less than a decade removed from being a club pro. However, like sometimes happens in golf the underdog, and the frankly unknown, pulls through
Early on, Woods was looking his Sunday best. The former world No. 1 buried a 60-footer on the par-5 second for an unlikely birdie and then stuffed his approach on the third for a tap-in birdie, moving quickly to 13-under par.
But Rock matched Woods’ early birdies, and after wayward approaches on holes 4 and 5 led Woods to back-to-back bogeys, Rock held the edge.
Woods continued to struggle from tee to green throughout the round, finding just two of 14 fairways and six of 18 greens, yet he stuck around. Woods relied on his short game to get him out of jams, scrambling his way for pars as he tried to keep up with the lead.
This fighting spirit was most noticeable after Woods nailed a 25-footer to save par on the 11th. With flashes of the Tiger of old, Woods fist pumped as the crucial putt dropped and kept him at 11-under and just two off the lead.
Rory McIlroy stayed close as well, recording two early birdies to move to 11-under and adding two more birdies against one bogey to finish in the clubhouse at 12-under. McIlroy stuck around and almost snuck his way to victory.
However, neither Woods nor the 22-year-old wunderkind could prevail.
This simply was Rock’s day. The Englishman was too steady to fold, hitting fairways and greens as competitors failed to catch up. Rock had a brief scare after a poor pitch on the 13th cost him a bogey and moved him back to 12-under, just one in front of Woods.
But the man, true to his name, steadied himself under the Sunday pressure, canning key birdies at 14 and 16 to move to 14-under and take a three-shot lead with just two holes to play.
Rock held on from there, beating a field that remarkably included 11 of the world’s top 25 golfers.
McIlroy finished just one behind in solo second at 12-under and Woods finished in a tie for third at 11-under with Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell, who aced the 12th hole in the final round.
Woods blew a 54-hole lead but showed encouraging signs this week. His swing looked good much of the time and his short game touch seemed to return to its former brilliance.
It wasn’t Woods' day Sunday, but he can't always hog the stage. It was a day when an unknown prevailed and a star was forced to wait a little longer.