Having blitzed his way to Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship glory last year, England’s Robert Rock - the US$2.7 million Desert Swing opener’s defending champion - believes he can mimic triple champion Martin Kaymer and become only the second man in the tournament’s seven-year history to defend the Falcon trophy. Twelve months ago, Rock posted masterful rounds of 69, 70, 66 and 70 to conquer the National Course and scoop his second PGA European Tour win. In a dramatic, sun-soaked final day’s play at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the Englishman kept his cool to fend off a chasing pack that counted the world’s current top two: Rory McIlroy (1) and Tiger Woods (2).
With world number four, Justin Rose, number nine, Jason Dufner, and Ernie Els, the reigning Open champion, joining McIlroy, Woods and Kaymer as title contenders when play starts on Thursday, Rock insists he will not relinquish the Falcon trophy without a fight.
“I certainly feel like I can win again,” said the Staffordshire-born world number 104. “Everything fell into place for me last year and I’ll never forget holding off Tiger down the stretch. That scenario is about as high-pressure as you can get and at the end I couldn’t believe it.
“Winning your first tournament is always special but Abu Dhabi still represents the biggest win of my career. As always, Abu Dhabi has put together a world-class field so winning again will be tough - everyone wants my trophy. Defending would be unbelievable and that’s the aim this week. I’ve won this tournament before, so why not again? I know I can do it – being defending champion carries no pressure for me. ”
Having signed a sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi’s iconic Emirates Palace on-the-back of his landmark win in 2012, Rock revealed the familiar palatial surroundings at one of the emirate’s most opulent addresses has left him purring for the Championship to tee-off.
“Being back at Emirates Palace is the icing on the cake,” said Rock. “I been in talks with the people here all throughout the year and we’ve progressed so many ideas, including the ins and outs of my academy. Now we can have a few more discussions and, hopefully, we’ll be able to talk about it as I defend my title – the falcon is one trophy I do not want to give back.”
Championship tickets are available via the event’s official website – www.abudhabigolfchampionship.com - as well as online at www.timeouttickets.com. Customer service can be contacted through the ITP toll-free hotline 800 4669, or for international visitors, +971 4 444 3459. Tickets can also be bought at the gate throughout the Championship.