Robert Rock: My new outlook on the greens

Robert talks Paul McGinley's appointment as Ryder Cup captain and where he feels his form is at this point of the season

IF one country’s golf is definitely on the up it is South Africa with four wins in the first seven events on the European Tour.

While Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen grab most of the headlines, and rightly so, one player who has really impressed me is Richard Sterne. I played with Richard in the first two rounds of both Dubai and Joburg and my caddy, Tom Whitehouse, and I said to each other that we would be amazed if he didn’t win soon. Not surprisingly, having been second in Dubai, he went on to win on home soil by no less than seven shots.

He does pretty much everything right; he hits the par 5s in two, wedges it close and, if he ever was in trouble which he very rarely was, he would get up and down. In Dubai he was round in 62 and, not that you witness many 62s, it was one of the easiest 10-under rounds in tournaments I have ever seen.

In the four rounds we played together I can hardly think of any bad shots that he hit and his ‘misses’ were just off the green.

We also played with another real up-andcoming star in George Coetzee in Joburg. He looks very close to breaking his duck and putts beautifully.

For me it has been a mixed few weeks with a couple of missed cuts and a top 10 in Dubai, my first since winning in Abu Dhabi last year. In Dubai I tried the AimPoint method on the greens which I had seen on the TV on the PGA Tour. I didn’t really know much about it but I got together with Jamie Donaldson (same name, different person) for a few hours, gave it a go and found it to be really reliable.

It basically involves trying to locate the straight uphill putt on the green and then use a chart to work out the break given how far away you are and the speed of the green. It obviously takes more time to chart the green beforehand but it does take a lot of the guesswork away.
Sterne’s 62 was one of the easiest 10-under rounds I have ever seen Since Dubai I have had Tom on the bag which has been good fun. He played on the tour for years and is now part of my academy so it’s a bit different having a great player alongside me, as well as being a mate, and he is able to take the mickey out of me if I hit some bad shots.

We have also done a lot of work together on my short game in recent months so it has been very beneficial for him to see me in tournaments as opposed to a chipping green. Otherwise, hopefully I’m not too far away.

I also missed the cut at the Africa Open, in East London, where we got the wrong side of the draw having started on the 10th where most of the holes were into the wind.

I struggled at the beginning and was five over after 14 so to get it back to one over and have a putt to make the cut was quite satisfying and to be fourth in Greens in Regulation and second in Driving Accuracy was also encouraging enough.

Finally, the news that Paul McGinley has been appointed Ryder Cup captain was very well received on tour and I think he will make a great captain. I have played under Paul twice, both times in the Seve Trophy, and he was really thorough. He had a plan, which he let us all know straightaway, but also seemed to have a lot of options available to him.

In the first match I had a poor opening couple of games and expected to be dropped. But he pulled me to one side and gave me a few kind words and that gave me a real boost that I wasn’t expecting and I won my three games after that. Had I not I would have gone into the singles on the back of a pair of defeats and having been dropped.

The 2014 matches might be 18 months away but you know that Paul will already be putting together a plan for Gleneagles.

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