Friday 15 December 2017

Robert Rock leads the way at Carton House

Robert Rock, watches his tee shot to the 7th green during the Irish Open today
Robert Rock, watches his tee shot to the 7th green during the Irish Open today

Phil Casey

Robert Rock already has one undeserved "winner's" cheque from the Irish Open - but could claim another for real at Carton House this weekend.

Despite holding off Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi Championship last year, Rock's biggest payday remains the first prize of 500,000 euros he collected at Baltray in 2009, even though he lost out to Shane Lowry in a play-off.

Lowry was unable to claim it as he was still an amateur at the time, but both players were in contention for the title four years on as the third round progressed without star names Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke.

Ireland's four major winners had all missed the halfway cut, although McIlroy and McDowell could still be seen practising at the venue, but Lowry began the day just two shots behind leaders Rock and Peter Uihlein.

Uihlein, a former world number one amateur who won the Madeira Islands Open last month, made the ideal start with a birdie on the first and missed a good chance for another on the second after an excellent approach from a fairway bunker.

But the 23-year-old then ran up a double-bogey five on the third, fluffing a chip from an awkward lie just outside a bunker and then missing from two feet after an excellent second attempt.

Rock had been in the same fairway bunker on the second and saved par with two putts from just off the back of the green, while he also made par on the third from more sand.

A birdie on the fifth then took the 36-year-old to 10 under par and a share of the lead with Spain's Pablo Larrazabal, who had birdied the second, fourth, fifth and ninth to be out in 32.

France's Raphael Jacquelin, winner of the Spanish Open after a record-equalling nine-hole play-off, and Lyoness Open winner Joost Luiten were a shot behind, with Lowry another two strokes back after a birdie on the second was cancelled out by a bogey on the sixth.

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