Staff writer

Armitage golfer Robert Rock is determined he is going to do things his way as he bids to make an impact in the Race to Dubai.

Rock, who is affiliated to The Belfry, gained his full European Tour card after finishing 111th in last season’s Order of Merit after deciding not to seek coaching help with his game.

While many of his European Tour colleagues consult swing coaches, fitness coaches and psychiatrists in a bid to find that little something extra to push them up the rankings, Rock decided last season to go the other way and trust his own judgment. And it worked. He enjoyed four top ten finishes in 2008 including a share of fourth at the Madrid Masters after a fine final round 64.

Rock is now hoping to get what will be a very busy European Tour season off to a good start at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa today and he has set himself the target of gaining a big pay day. If he fails, Rock said he would only have himself to blame.

“I know consulting others has worked for a lot of golfers but it never worked for me,” Rock said.

“I decided last season that I was going to trust my own judgement. I feel a lot more comfortable working on things myself and I am happy with what I am doing.”

Rock found himself in plenty of promising positions last season without being able to maintain his challenge through the final rounds. The 41-year-old set the early pace at both the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles and the Inteco Russian Open, but he has now set himself the goal of staying in contention until the final day.

“Last year was the best I have performed in terms of consistency but I didn’t have a big pay day,” said Rock. “That was why I finished in 111th.

“I had some good weeks where I finished high up but they were only in medium prize money events. I need to get a big pay day when I am playing well this season to make progress up the Order of Merit.

“The standard on the Tour is incredibly high and you can’t afford to stand still. If you do you find yourself losing ground and there is only a small difference between the top spot and 100th.

“Last year I improved my stroke average and I need to build on that and keep improving. To be honest, I think everything about my game has improved and I need to keep that going.

“This could be a really big year for me, an exciting year, especially with the Race to Dubai ending to the year.”

Rock said the Leopard Creek course near Malelane, on the southern border of the Kruger National Park, was in magnificent condition but he will have to cope with rather unfestive weather conditions.

“It can get to 40 degrees in the day which isn’t pleasant,” he said. “I enjoy playing in the heat but it is incredibly hot, certainly different to back home.

“I think the course is one of the best in the world and I am going into the tournament with plenty of confidence.”

Rock will be joined by fellow Midlander, Birmingham’s Sam Walker, who was given a place in the tournament as a reserve following withdrawals, and Lee Westwood, who will be among the favourites for the £ 124,911 first prize.

John Bickerton from Redditch won last year’s event but is not defending his title this year.