GULLANE, Scotland – Robert Rock was already heading to Carnoustie next week to work at the British Open in a coaching capacity.
He might now have to take his clubs.
Rock, ranked No. 244, set the record for the lowest 36-hole total since the Scottish Open was launched by the European Tour in 1972, adding a 7-under 63 in the second round Friday to his 64 on Day 1. So far, he has made 13 birdies and not dropped a shot.
Not only did it give the English golfer a two-shot lead on 13-under 127 at Gullane, it also gave him a great chance of earning one of the final qualification spots for the British Open just up the east coast of Scotland.
“It’s everything for me,” Rock said.
On a day when players shot low scores because of a lack of wind, the course record was broken twice – by Connor Syme of Scotland (62) and then Hideto Tanihara of Japan (61). The layout has only been played once before, at the Scottish Open in 2015.
Tyrrell Hatton (64) and unheralded Swede Jens Dantorp (65) were the closest challengers to Rock. Eddie Pepperell (63) and Rickie Fowler (66), the winner at Gullane three years ago, were a shot further back.
One of golf’s more nattily dressed players, Rock is most famous for overcoming Tiger Woods in a last-group, final-round shootout at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in 2012. That remains the second and most recent professional win for a player who never wears a golf hat and seemingly never has a hair out of place.
Nowadays, the 41-year-old Rock – a former club pro – has started coaching again. Among his part-time pupils are Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn and up-and-coming English player Matt Wallace, whose two wins this year have secured a place at the Open for the first time.
“My job is to be there with him (Wallace) and help him prepare. I was looking forward to that anyway,” Rock said, before adding with a smile: “But I’d love to play there, of course.”
To do that, he has to be one of the leading three players to finish in the top 10 and ties who are not otherwise exempt for Carnoustie. And that’s far from guaranteed with Gullane as defenseless as it has been this week.
Hatton, likely to be in Europe’s Ryder Cup team against the United States in Paris in September, opened with a 65 and has only made one bogey this week.
Dantorp, who is playing in his second full year on the tour and has only one top-10 finish, went down No. 18 needing a birdie to tie the lead. He made a bogey, his first of the week.
Tanihara was 9 under par for his round after 15 holes and required two more birdies to become the first player in European Tour history to shoot a 59. He could only par his way home, but that still meant Syme’s 62 from the morning was the course record for about eight hours.
Defending champion Rafa Cabrera Bello missed the cut, which came at 4 under, after a 67 left him on 1 under. Also sidelined at the weekend will be Phil Mickelson (69, for 1 under overall) and Hideki Matsuyama (70, for 2 under overall).
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