Rock rolls as Tiger fades
Abu Dhabi - Unheralded Englishman Robert Rock won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship here on Sunday to deny Tiger Woods the win he was seeking to end a two-year winless drought in full tournaments.
The world's 117th ranked player fired a closing two-under par 70 for a total of 13-under par total of 275.
That gave him a one stroke win over Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy who fired a final 69.
Woods, with a par 72, finished tied for third a further stroke back level with Thomas Bjorn of Denmark (68), and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (68).
It was a stunning, against the odds win for the Englishman who had admitted to feeling starry-eyed after learning on Saturday that he would be playing with the American in the final grouping.
The pair shared the lead on 11 under at the start of the day and battled it out over the final 18 holes with Rock edging ahead at the fourth hole and standing firm after that in the line of fire from Woods and late on from McIlroy.
It was just his second tournament win in 228 attempts, following his win in the Italian Open last year but more than that it will be the scalp of the 14-times major winner that will count most for Rock.
For Woods it was a bitter blow as he had looked set to win a full tournament for the first time since November 2009.
It was at last year's Masters that Woods sustained the leg injury that sidelined him for most of the year before he finally returned to the winners' circle at the Chevron World Challenge in California in early December.
That, however, was only an 18-man invitation event that Woods himself organised for the benefit of his charitable foundation.
In Abu Dhabi at the fourth tournament of the European Tour season, it was the real deal with the top four players in the world starting their seasons and six out of the current top 10 taking part.
In three, improving rounds of 70, 69 and 66 for 11 under par for the tournament, Woods had so far given the surest signs yet that the swing he has painstakingly remodelled under new coach Sean Foley is finally in place.
But despite failing to finish the job on Sunday, Woods will still feel he has laid down an important stepping stone on a path he hopes will lead to a 15th major title at The Masters in early April.
The $2.7 million dollars Abu Dhabi event was the fourth leg of the European Tour season and the opening leg of the tour's Desert Swing that also takes in Doha and Dubai.
Leading scores at the par-72 National Course here after Sunday's final round of the European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship:
275 - Robert Rock (ENG) 69-70-66-70
276 - Rory McIroy (NIR) 67-72-68-69
277 - Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 73-71-65-68, Tiger Woods (USA) 70-69-66-72, Graeme McDowell (NIR) 72-69-68-68
278 - Matteo Manassero (ITA) 73-65-71-69, George Coetzee (RSA) 71-72-65-70
279 - Paul Lawrie (SCO) 70-69-68-72, Keith Horne (RSA) 71-71-68-69, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 74-67-66-72, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 70-67-71-71
280 - Jean-Baptise Gonnet (FRA) 68-71-69-72, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 71-69-71-69
281 - Anders Hansen (DEN) 71-70-72-68, Romain Wattel (FRA) 74-69-69-69, Gareth Maybin (NIR) 68-70-72-71