Open 2016: Staffordshire's Robert Rock ready for Open return at Troon

Robert Rock
Robert Rock has won two European Tour titles in his career so far
Venue: Royal Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland Dates: 14 July - 17 July
Coverage: Listen live on Radio 5 live, follow live text on the BBC Sport website from Thursday. Highlights on BBC Two and online. Click here for full details

Staffordshire golfer Rob Rock will make his seventh appearance at an Open Championship when he tees up at Royal Troon on Thursday

But he had to hold his nerve in a Final Qualifying play-off to book his place.

After a four-year absence from the Open, Rock grins like an excited child at being back on golf's biggest stage - yet his first thought was one of sympathy for the man he beat, fellow Midlander Aaron Rai.

"It was hard for him," 39-year-old Rock, from Rugeley, told BBC Sport.

"He'd been sat there all day thinking he'd done enough to get in. But I shot five under for the last nine. I was ready for a play-off.

"He bogeyed. I parred. He's played well and ended up with nothing. But that's golf. Last year, I shot four under and missed out by a shot. This time I shot seven-under and only made the play-off."

Playing in Paris was a mistake

Rock went straight from that Woburn play-off to Paris for a missed cut at the French Open, which he admits now he should have skipped.

"As soon as I'd got through in the qualifier at Woburn, I should have pulled out, which was the original plan," he said. "The French Open is a great tournament, but to go there under prepared is a bit silly. I knew as soon as I'd played nine holes I'd made a mistake."

But he will not be making the same mistake of being under cooked at Troon, where his only previous round was 'for fun' some years ago.

"A friend of mine was assistant pro there, so I went and had a knock. It was horrendous weather and we hardly saw a thing."

Rock still excited about the Open

Even for a worldly-wise, steady European Tour player like Rock, just getting the invitation to tee up in his 10th major is still demonstrably exciting.

Having not played since missing the cut at Royal Lytham in 2012, preceded by a tie for 38th at Royal St George's, Sandwich in 2011, this will be his first Open in Scotland since his best one - his tie for seventh in 2010.

"I look back at that one and feel really happy," he said. "It's nice to have a reasonable finish at a major under your belt. You want to perform in circumstances like that. To play well and see what a finish of an Open is like is what it's all about.

"I've missed a few now," he added. "It's hard to watch them at home when you're playing ok and you know you could be there. But I've been trying to do less events this year and do them properly, and my game's in good shape. I'm hopeful."

Rock Jnr loves Ronaldo

In 2010, when Rock starred at St Andrews, his son David was only two - and too young to know what his dad does. Now he's eight and has started playing golf, although his first love is football.

And his favourite player? "Cristiano Ronaldo, of course!" Rock said.

Could there be more tears of joy to come in the Rock family this week?

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