Rock hoping to add Irish Open trophy this time around

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Rock hoping to add Irish Open trophy this time around

Euro Tour

Rock hoping to add Irish Open trophy this time around

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Robert Rock has already picked up first place money in an Irish Open. This time he’s hoping to add the trophy too.

The Englishman finds himself in familiar territory: in contention to win Ireland’s national championship. He holds the 54-hole lead in the $7 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch after recording a course record 60, 10 under. The Englishman sits on 13 under par, one shot in front of countryman Eddie Pepperell and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello.

The 42-year-old birdied his final six holes, and came within inches of becoming only the second European Tour player after Oliver Fisher to shoot 59. Fisher recorded a 59 in last year’s Portugal Masters. Rock narrowly missed an eagle putt on the last hole to join Fisher in the record books. Sixty is the best score ever recorded in the Irish Open, and three shots better than Rock’s previous best score.

“That’s the first chance I’ve had to do it,” Rock said. “It’s disappointing not to but 60 is a great score. It’s my best score.”

“I played rubbish so far this year, so just delighted to play better. It is a good opportunity. It’s an 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.

“Any time you’ve got a chance to win a tournament like the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open or the Scottish Open, it really means something, 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. I think the quality of the golf course is just fun to play.”

Rock has two runner-up finishes in the Irish Open, in 2009 and 2013. He was given first place prize money in 2009. Rock finished second to Shane Lowry but, since Lowry was an amateur, Rock picked up the first prize.

The two-time European Tour winner would love to get his hands on the trophy this time around. The $1.4 million winner’s check would also improve his status on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Rock, who last won in 2012 when he defeated Tiger Woods down the stretch in the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, is currently ranked 147th. He hasn’t qualified for the Open Championship, but can book his place if he finishes one of three players in the top 10 not otherwise exempt for Royal Portrush.

Pepperell’s another who’s come close to winning Ireland’s national title. He lost in a playoff to Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen in 2015. He’s making his first start since the PGA Championship after suffering back problems.

“I’m quite looking forward to tomorrow, and indeed beyond tomorrow,” Pepperell said. “Body feels good, driving the ball well and no reason why I can’t go out there and shoot a low one.”

Cabrera Bello is looking for his third European Tour victory, and first since the 2017 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

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