Tiger Woods Fades in Final Round at Abu Dhabi as Robert Rock Takes Title

Tiger Woods finished third in his season-opening event in Abu Dhabi, where he failed to make a birdie over the last eight holes after entering the final round tied for the lead with winner Robert Rock.

Woods shot an even-par 72 yesterday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to finish 11-under par, two strokes behind Rock, who shot 70, and one behindRory McIlroy, who closed with a 69. Woods shared third place in the European Tour event with 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and Thomas Bjorn.

“I was just a touch off,” said Woods, who hit one fairway off the tee over the last nine holes and six greens in regulation during the final round. “But Robert played great. He made a couple of key up-and-downs and a couple of beautiful iron shots down the stretch.”

Woods, 36, won the Chevron World Challenge, an invitational tournament that he hosts, in December to end a 749-day winless drought. In the two years after he won the Australian Masters in November 2009, Woods got divorced and lost his swing coach, corporate sponsors and No. 1 world ranking following a sex scandal. He hasn’t won on the U.S. PGA Tour since September 2009.

The 34-year-old Rock’s second European Tour title is worth 347,024 euros ($460,000) and the Englishman will climb into the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking from 117th.

“I can’t believe I’ve done this,” Rock told Sky Sports. “It’s such an amazing feeling.”

Rock made five birdies during the final round and had the last of three bogeys at the 18th hole after he pushed his drive into a hazard.

PGA Tour Debut

Woods, a 14-time major winner, is set to make his 2012 PGA Tour debut at the Feb. 9-12 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach, California. It will be his first appearance at the event since 2002.

“I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made,” Woods said. “I just need to keep building, keep getting more consistent.”

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy was runner-up in Abu Dhabi for a second straight year, while Germany’s Martin Kaymer, winner in three of the past four years in Abu Dhabi, failed to make the halfway cut. Luke Donald, the No. 1 golfer in the Official World Ranking, tied for 48th place at 1-under par.

The European Tour’s three-week Middle East sojourn, dubbed Desert Swing, continues with the Qatar Masters from Feb. 2-5 and concludes with the Dubai Desert Classic from Feb 9-12.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Cone in London at jcone@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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