Robert Rock hoping to get season back on track after career-best 60 at Lahinch
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 06/07/19 10:15pm
Robert Rock welcomed the chance to get his season "back on track" after lighting up Lahinch with a remarkable 10-under 60 on day three of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Rock stormed into the outright lead with a grandstand finish to his third round, holing a monster 65-foot putt for his fifth consecutive birdie on the 17th green, which left him needing an eagle at the last to emulate Oliver Fisher's first 59 in European Tour history last year.
But, after finding the front left-fringe with his second to the par-five 18th, Rock's 30-foot putt to break 60 missed on the low side, although his career-best effort was enough to give him a one-shot lead over Eddie Pepperell and Rafa Cabrera Bello heading into the final round.
"It was a fun day," Rock said, who was beaten in a play-off at the Irish Open by Shane Lowry 10 years ago, but the Englishman still pocketed the winner's prize of half a million euros due to Lowry being an amateur at the time.
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"I made quite a lot of birdies early on, and I think that helped to see that they were possible. And then I started putting really good.
"The finish was a bit much, really. I had a really long putt on 17 and then when I was walking to the second shot on 18, I looked at what par was, because I had kind of forgot and realised it was an eagle for 59.
"Opportunities to do that don't come hardly at all, really, and that's the first chance I've had to do it. It's disappointing not to, but 60 is a great score, and it's my best score. I've played rubbish so far this year, so just delighted to play better!
"It is a good opportunity to get my season back on track, to try to qualify for The Open, and maybe have a chance to win a tournament again, which would be lovely because it's been a long while.
"It's been a bit of a tough season on the course, and I don't seem to have really got much out of my rounds. Some days I've played well, I've scored badly and then the days when I've played badly, I've been chipping and putting great and just shooting average scores all the time.
"I'd say this was unexpected, but nice. You have to hit good shots here, and it tests your driving and your iron play. It's a great tournament. It's a tournament that I've always said I'd love to win. Maybe I have another chance to do it.
"Any time you've got a chance to win a tournament like The Irish Open or Scottish Open, it really means something, so it gives me a little extra focus. It's hard to say it makes you play great because you can't force that, but it's a great tournament and the people are amazing."
Rock also revealed he still harboured the odd regret at not getting the better of Lowry at County Louth in 2009, although he finally made his European Tour breakthrough at the Italian Open two years later and doubled his silverware count with a superb one-shot win over Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi in early 2012.
"That tournament, 10 years ago, it's still amazing when you look back," Rock added. "Shane did fantastic over that weekend. I played with him all weekend, he deserved to win, and he's gone on to be a fine player.
"That was my first real chance of winning a tournament, and I have a couple of regrets from that, which a few decisions you make here and there that you probably would do different now. But the Irish Open has been great to me. It's right up with ones that I'd love to win."