Robert Rock may have tasted The Open on only two occasions but he has been drawing on the experience of three-time Open champion Sir Nick Faldo to help his bid for glory at Turnberry.
The 32-year-old from Lichfield shared a practice round with Faldo, considered one of the greatest European golfers, after a cheeky request ahead of the championships, which start today, and he admits it was a valuable experience.
“I asked him if he minded if I joined him,” Rock said. “He was good to play with and chatted about a little bit of strategy. You have got to do what you’ve got to do. He is one of the best and great company.
“I have also played a practice round with Boo Weekly and Stuart Appleby, which was a good experience too.”
Rock is enjoying the best season of his career and believes he has been playing his best golf. He is 13th in the Race to Dubai standings and has finished runner-up in three tournaments.
However, his form has dipped in recent weeks and his confidence has been further rocked by the loss of the driver he has been using for five years.
Rock’s previous best at The Open was finishing 16th at Hoylake in 2006 and he was confident of beating that before he broke his driver last week.
“I feel I am playing the best golf of my life,” he said. “I am coming into The Open having contended for tournaments and I haven’t seen The Open as any different. I was in the last group in a links tournament in Ireland and finished well.
“I think the Open is a good tournament for me. I finished 16th at Hoylake and my game is in good enough shape to better that.
“If I still had my old driver in play, I thought I would better it, but with my new driver I am not sure. The driver I have been using for the last five years broke last Monday. It’s a Calloway and I had to try to find a replacement.
“I tried one and it didn’t work and got another one the same week but it will not be the same teeing up in an Open with a different driver. It is a shame really. I wished it would have happened after this one, the biggest we play all year.
“I shall wait and see what driver I will use. I didn’t want to move from the one I had to a newer model but it was going to happen some time. I will have to deal with that. It will take only a couple of decent rounds to build some confidence. They have been trying to get me to change but I was happy with my old driver and how it was performing. If I do well, though. it will be the perfect excuse to advertise a new product for them.”
Rock will be among one of the morning groups, playing alongside American Ben Crane and Scot Martin Laird, for the opening round but has been given a 4pm tee-off time tomorrow, and admits the late start could present a few problems.
“That is really late but it is part of The Open where we have a one tee start and it is one of the things you have to accept when you are here,” he said.
“It is about killing time before 4pm and how you get to that time. It would be nice to sleep in but I won’t be doing that.
“You have to work through your routine and not start it too early. It would be easy to get on the range too early.”
Meanwhile, golf’s world ranking system is to phase in changes from January which it is hoped will encourage the game’s stars to play more.
A meeting at Turnberry of Tour and major championship officials ended with them taking steps to ease concerns that players are penalised for entering more events. Sir Michael Bonallack, chairman of the governing board of the rankings, said: “The board believes this measure will encourage players to play more often, which will be a positive development for all Tours and the game of professional golf in general.”
The rankings are calculated on a points average and while there is a minimum divisor of 40 events over a two-year period this will be the first time a maximum divisor has been introduced. The figure will be 60 next January and then a two-tournament reduction every six months through to January 2012 when it will be 52.
At the Wales Open last month Irishman Paul McGinley called on the sport’s administrators to “wake up” and change the system. That event featured only three of the world’s top 50 and McGinley said: “It’s a problem. In these economic times all sponsors are facing the same problem of getting top players to play and in my opinion the world ranking system does not reward guys who play a lot of tournaments.
“I understand the big picture. All contracts are tied in with the world rankings and they determine who gets into events.
“At present the system rewards players who play only 20 tournaments a year and we should be encouraging guys to play more.”