Golf Correspondent

Rob Rock has withdrawn from this week’s South African Open after his career-best performance at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last week.

The Armitage golfer finished joint second with Sweden’s’ Johan Edfors at Leopard Creek Golf Club and has decided to cut short his stay in South Africa to spend more time with his family over Christmas.

The 31-year-old planned to compete at Pearl Valley with European Tour heavyweights Darren Clarke, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood, plus South Africans Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman, but his prize money of nearly £82,500 has gone a long way to securing his Tour card for 2010.

The Belfry professional secured his card for this season after finishing 111th on the European Tour, four places above the cut-off point.

“It has been the ideal start to the new Tour for me,” said Rock, who had four top ten finishes in the 2008 season.

“That was the best result of my career. I think I am already a third of the way to the prize money I need so I decided to come home and spend time with my family. If I played this week I would not have got back until December 23 but that result, and the prize, has given me some breathing space.”

Rock finished just one shot behind winner Richard Sterne of South Africa but admitted he wasn’t entirely happy.

“I was surprised to be so close to the leaders because I didn’t feel I played that well,” he said. “I think I was the 13th or the 14th hole on Sunday and was about four or five shots behind but produced a couple of good shots over the next few holes and that put me right up there.

“On the 16th I knew I was one shot behind and thought I had a chance of a play-off with a couple of birdies and I got them, but I was just short. I missed a lot of putts you have to hole if you are going to win tournaments. I only had one really good spell on the front nine in the opening round when I holed a lot of putts. I had four or five lip out on Sunday and that cost me.”

Rock admitted the African heat produced some of the most challenging playing conditions he has ever faced.

At times the mercury climbed to 40 degrees and Rock admitted it was difficult to maintain his concentration.

“It was really hard work,” he said. “It is probably the hottest place you can play golf.

“I was completely drained by the end of the week and I have lost some weight.

“The toughest part was maintaining my concentration, because the heat can make you angry as well.”

Rock will now take a break until The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in the United Arab Emirates on January 15.

Birmingham’s Sam Walker made the most of his inclusion after withdrawals to finish in the prize money in joint 29th and he is again on the reserve list for this week’s event.