Robert Rock walked onto the practice range last Wednesday before the HSBC Championship in the sands of Abu Dhabi.
He couldn't help himself. He stopped and watched Tiger Woods hit golf balls.
You can't blame him. After all, it was his first up close and personal look at Woods. Rock could remember watching Woods winning majors on television 10 years ago when he worked giving lessons and selling candy bars at the Swingers Golf Centre in Tamworth, England.
Fast forward to this past Sunday at the manicured Abu Dhabi Golf Club and its wonderfully thick rough. There was Rock going head-to-head with Woods. If you wanted a golf edition of David and Goliath, well, you had one. In fact, Rock would have made David look like a one-touchdown favorite.
You had Tiger Woods, winner of everything, up against Rock, winner of, well, he got the BMW Italian last year.
Woods has 14 majors. Rock has major hair.
The two were tied at 11-under after 54 holes. This one had mismatch written all over it, or so the guys at the club told me.
All I could offer in return was: "Hey guys, Eldrick still hasn't won an official event since the Australian Masters in November of 2009."
Woods actually thinks he won a tournament when he beat Zach Johnson at his little Chevron gathering last December.
Unofficial. 20-some guys waiting to go on vacation. Not a win. But, I digress.
This was England's version of Rocky Balboa against Eldrick "Apollo" Creed.
Woods was looking for his 100th worldwide title. Rock was hoping for his second. Rock humbly declared it "a special honor" to play with Woods. Woods was probably wondering where this Rock guy came from and how he managed to get in the final group.
Woods threw a couple of early birdies at Rock and something so very astonishing happened. Rock didn't crumble. Peter Hanson, their other playing partner, did. He fell apart exactly the way everyone used to when they went head-to-head with Woods.
In fact, Rock had the audacity to keep firing away. He had the audacity to hit irons shots that most were expecting Woods to hit. He did something no one expected. He put pressure on Woods.
The nerve of him.
How did Woods respond? Two fairways, six greens. Are your serious? Gotta say that again. Two fairways, six greens. Only a world-class short game exhibition kept him from shooting in the high 70s. After his two early birdies, he couldn't find another for the rest of the day.
While Eldrick battled that wonderfully juicy rough, Rock, well, he just rocked on.
This guy was cooler than cool, more poised than Tom Brady, more clutch than Eli Manning.
He simply took Woods to the School of Rock.
In the end, it was Rock holding the trophy. Goliath finished third. While no one was looking, Rory McIlroy beat Woods as well, just for good measure.
Perhaps McIlroy will think back to a two-shot penalty he incurred during the second round for sweeping sand out of his line on a putt. McIlroy finished a shot back of Rock.
It was unthinkable to most that Rock could play so steadily, calmly and impressively in front of Woods.
This sort of thing never used to happen. It never happened until that Y.E. guy stole a PGA Championship from Woods in 2009.
It's nice to see Goliath back, nice to have him in the mix.
Nice to see all these articles proclaiming that Goliath is back and will surely win the Masters.
Good news is that Augusta National doesn't have any rough.
And Robert Rock is not in the field—yet.