Why I had to tell Tiger Woods to keep quiet

Robert Rock's first column for NCG

IT is great to kick off my new column and the last month has certainly been my most eventful in eight years on tour. On the Thursday in Abu Dhabi Marc Warren and I were among 50 or so people watching Tiger warm up, it’s something we’ve done before and it’s always worth it as you don’t get to see him too often.

To play with him in the final round, in the last group out, was pretty surreal to say the least. 

On the Saturday night I just had a quite meal and a couple of glasses of wine and fully expected not to sleep at all. So, to wake up at four in the morning, was a bit of a result.

I actually spoke to Tiger on the Saturday just before our rounds and he started up a conversation about swing technique and I was pretty nervous just chatting away. Without realising it that made things a lot easier for me on the Sunday. 

The first couple of holes were crucial, I hit good shots all the way down both holes and down exactly the line I was trying to hit and that surprised me a bit. I was sort of expecting a rough start and, although I was more nervous than ever, I thought I could put together a half-decent score. If Tiger then shot a 64 then I thought fair enough but I knew I was ready to play OK.

What also helped, and it’s not nice to say it, was Peter Hanson not getting off to the best start. When he hit it in the water on the 1st that took the pressure off a little as, if I did follow him in, it had already been done. I don’t know if he was nervous playing with Tiger or it was just a standard off day but it did make things a little bit easier for me.

One thing that I hadn’t anticipated happening was telling Tiger to be quiet, even if it was by accident. There were a couple of marshals who had gone off to the side of the 10th tee and they were walking around and making a bit of noise. When I was getting ready to play I just assumed it was the guy I was looking at and said ‘Stand still, please’ before it quickly dawned on me that it was Tiger walking back.

If we hadn’t broken the ice already, that certainly did.
One thing that I hadn’t anticipated happening was telling Tiger to be quiet, even if it was by accident. As regards the golf the most satisfying part was hitting some great mid-iron shots, which is the strength of my game, but it’s a bit different under that sort of pressure. If there was one highlight it would have to be a 5 iron from 204 yards to the 16th which needed to be faded into a right-to-left wind and it finished about 10 feet away. It was between a 4 and 5 iron and I was keen to hit the latter after quite a bit of chat with my caddie Gary Tilson.
Gary was great all day and he certainly made the right call down the 18th when my drive finished by a boulder. I don’t think I would have taken it on but I have been known to try that type of shot. Had I pulled it off it could have pretty much closed out the tournament but, instead, I had to go back, take a drop and hit a 3 iron which isn’t massively ideal. But, thankfully, it all came off.

That night we stayed at the Emirates Palace and had quite a lot to drink, I’m not sure if we went to bed or not, but we were up early for the flight back. On the following Tuesday the hotel emailed and we then signed a deal with them before Dubai so it is quite incredible to represent a hotel like that and quite a change from the days of working in the pro shop.

To be honest I turned the phone off the day after the win and have slowly been trying to get back to as many people as possible. I’m amazed how far-reaching it has been and there was a piece on the PGA Tour coverage, when Charlie Wi was leading at Pebble Beach, and he said that I had given him hope.

Like I said all a bit removed from selling Mars bars a few years ago.

Robert has his own Academy at Darnford Moors GC

Sponsors: Emirates Palace, BlackStar and BBT

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