Time for solid Rock to kick on

Sam Torrance
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Englishman should be inspired by his landmark win and Ryder Cup incentive

ROBERT ROCK took Sunday’s victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship with all the humility and good grace you’d expect from one of the nicest guys on the circuit, capping a hugely encouraging week for European golf.

The 34-year-old seemed genuinely taken aback by what he had accomplished in holding off the challenge of a stellar field and I hope this breakthrough injects him with a confidence that will allow him to believe he belongs in such exalted company.

Rock suffered a bit of a hairy moment on the final hole but overcame that scare and kept his emotions in check when some more experienced players may well have crumbled. That, more than any other aspect of his win, should stand him in good stead for the future.

Qualifying for the Ryder Cup is now a realistic target and appearing in the year’s showpiece event should provide enough of an incentive for him to ensure he kicks on from here.

Ultimately, as well as Rock played, had Rory McIlroy not committed a schoolboy error in the second round, the US Open champion would have walked away with the spoils.

The Northern Irishman can have no complaints at the two-shot penalty he incurred after he brushed sand away from his line on the ninth hole. It may sound like a trivial offence but all players are aware of the rules and if you don’t abide by them you suffer.

It’s a reminder that despite his rapid ascent, McIlroy is still a baby in golfing terms and he’ll have to go through and learn from these experiences before he becomes the champion golfer we expect him to become.

All of the big players will be using these tournaments to fine-tune their games ahead of the Masters at Augusta in April and although I didn’t think McIlroy’s overall game was at the level he’d want it to be last week, I’m sure he’ll take encouragement from the fact that he was so close to winning a lucrative title.

By contrast, the way Tiger Woods unraveled in the final round would put me off predicting he’s ready to win a Major this year. I still think he’ll have a strong season, but until he stops the near constant analysis of his swing he’ll struggle to get over the line at the big tournaments.

My advice would be to relax, keep it simple and just tee it up and play as he would have done when he first learnt to play the game. The rest will take care of itself.

Sam Torrance OBE won 21 European Tour titles and is a former Ryder Cup captain. Follow Sam on twitter @torrancesam.