Life just keeps getting better for Robert Rock, the former journeyman who took down Tiger Woods to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. The Englishman has signed a two-year deal with the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, supposedly the world’s most luxurious hotel.
The cheapest room at the Emirates Palace goes for about $380 per night, while the most expensive, the three-bedroom Palace suite, will set you back around $9,600. Rock will no doubt have his choice of plush rooms when he returns next year to defend his Abu Dhabi crown. Not bad for a guy who not too long ago had to stay in the cheapest places possible.
Rock’s transformation from one-time driving-range pro to world star got me thinking about what a massive overachiever he is, and wondering who else in Europe goes under that tag. Not surprisingly, it got me pondering the underachievers too.
Here are my five European overachievers and underachievers. To be fair, I’ve restricted the underachiever list to players older than 30 on the basis that 20-somethings still have time to achieve.
1. Ian Poulter: The dapper Englishman turned professional when he was a 4-handicapper. He had no amateur record to speak of because his parents couldn’t afford to finance summers playing the amateur circuit. He served as an assistant professional for years, selling chocolate bars, tees and balls to handicap golfers. He’s reached the top through self-confidence and a sheer desire to win, going from complete nobody to one of the game’s most recognized players.
2. Robert Rock: Ten years ago, the Englishman was giving lessons to slicers at Swingers Golf Centre in Lichfield, England. He was playing in PGA events in the English midlands. He got a couple of chances to play European Tour events and took full advantage. He has served his apprenticeship well and has now ditched the journeyman tag.
3. Damien McGrane: Another former club pro who has got the absolute most out of his ability. One win, the 2008 Volvo China Open, is one win more than anyone thought he’d obtain when he became a club professional in 1991.
4. Paul McGinley: The Dubliner is living proof that hard work pays off. He has worked arguably harder than anyone in Europe and has reaped the rewards. Four European Tour wins, including the 2005 Volvo Masters, and three Ryder Cups is a full career.
5. Christian Cevaer: Watch the Frenchman hit balls on the range and you’d fancy yourself in a long-drive competition with him. He hits it nowhere. Yet he’s bunted it around the European Tour to two victories, including the 2009 European Open.
1. Colin Montgomerie: The Scotsman might have topped the European Order of Merit eight times – seven consecutive – and won 31 European Tour titles, but he missed out on the big one. No major for a player of his caliber is a huge underachievement. He might go down in history as the best player not to win a major, and certainly the best European not to win one of the tournaments that really count.
2. Henrik Stenson: It’s hard to believe the scores the Swede is putting up. In his first four rounds of the year, he failed to break 80 twice. Not what you’d expect from a man with six European Tour wins and the 2009 Players Championship. He was 134th on the European money list last year, which is about 120 spots too high.
3. Jesper Parnevik: Everyone thought he’d be the first Swedish male to win a major. He came close but no cigar. He had a few good seasons but has faded into obscurity. Too bad, because he was one of the more interesting characters to play the royal-and-ancient game.
4. Sergio Garcia: I can’t believe we’re still waiting for Garcia to win one of the tournaments that really count. If only his putting stroke matched his ball striking then he’d have won a few majors by now. He has shown a resurgence recently. Maybe the claw grip finally will bring him major satisfaction.
5. Darren Clarke: I know this might be a little harsh since the Northern Irishman won last year’s Open Championship. However, he was a massive talent in every sense of the word when he arrived on Tour and should have lifted that first major 10 years ago, and gone on to add more. Winning at St George’s gave him and his fans great pleasure, but unless he adds another, he will look back on a career that promised much more.