Robert Rock storms into Irish Open lead with stunning 60 at Lahinch
Englishman narrowly misses out on a 59 as he takes lead after third round
Last Updated: 06/07/19 9:12pm
Robert Rock came agonisingly close to recording an astonishing 59 as he surged into the lead in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The Englishman narrowly missed a 30-foot putt for eagle on the par-five 18th at Lahinch that would have given him only the second sub-60 score in European Tour history after Oliver Fisher became the first in Portugal last year.
Rock's consolation was a simple tap-in for his 11th birdie of a remarkable third day which lifted him into the outright lead on 13 under par, one stroke ahead of Eddie Pepperell and Rafa Cabrera Bello, while halfway leader Zander Lombard slipped two off the pace.
But there was no doubting the star of the show on the west coast of Ireland, with Rock bettering his career-low round by three strokes while also emulating Brandon Stone's record for the best score in a Rolex Series event.
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The 42-year-old birdied two of the first three holes before he bogeyed the fourth, but he responded with another birdie at the sixth and made back-to-back threes either side of the turn to get to seven under.
The veteran, who has not won on the European Tour since lifting his second title when he pipped Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi in 2012, then produced a barnstorming finish, starting with a birdie at 13 which he followed with another perfect putt from 12 feet on the next.
Rock converted a further chance at 15 and added another from 20 feet at 16, and he made it five in a row in spectacular style on the penultimate green when his monster putt from close to 70 feet also found the cup and gave him a legitimate shot at breaking 60.
Two decent blows at the long last left him a little over 30 feet from the fringe for a closing eagle, but the putt just missed on the low side before he tapped in from close range to record his sixth consecutive birdie which added up to a back nine of 29.
Rock's effort was comfortably the low round of the day, and the second best belonged to Cabrera Bello as the Spaniard made four birdies in five holes around the turn and picked up further shots at 16 and 18 to card a 63 and earn a place in the final pairing on Sunday.
Pepperell, playing in his first event since the PGA Championship after taking time off due to a back injury, also enjoyed a big finish when he birdied the last three holes to return a 66 having earlier struggled to make much happen on the greens as he parred the first 11 holes.
Lombard suffered an early setback with a double-bogey at the fourth and he dropped another stroke at the eighth, but he revived his challenge with his first birdie of the day at nine and cruised home in 32 to card a spirited 68 which got him to 11 under heading into the final round.
Andy Sullivan (66) and Bernd Wiesberger (65) are only three behind the leader, while 2017 champion Jon Rahm followed four birdies in six holes with an eagle at the last to card a 64 and remain in the hunt on eight under.
Just six shots separate the top 21 players, but Lee Westwood tumbled seven behind after an erratic 71, while Tommy Fleetwood looks too far back to contend after he struggled to a 70.
Watch the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open from midday on Sunday live on Sky Sports Golf.