Wednesday 17 January 2018

Rumford wins dramatic playoff in South Korea

Brett Rumford of Australia poses with the trophy and a bottle of Ballantine's whisky after winning the Ballantine's Championship at Blackstone Golf Club on April 28, 2013 in Icheon, South Korea.
Brett Rumford of Australia poses with the trophy and a bottle of Ballantine's whisky after winning the Ballantine's Championship at Blackstone Golf Club on April 28, 2013 in Icheon, South Korea.

Phil Casey

Australia's Brett Rumford today made the most of a massive reprieve to win his fourth European Tour title in the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea.

Rumford made an eagle three on the first hole of a play-off with compatriot Marcus Fraser and Scotland's Peter Whiteford after squandering a two-shot lead with two holes to play.

A wild drive on the 17th led to a penalty drop from a bush and a double-bogey six, while another errant tee-shot on the 18th in regulation meant Rumford eventually had to hole from eight feet just to save par.

When playing partner Fraser was also unable to birdie the 543-yard par-five, Whiteford knew he needed a four to win but the 32-year-old from Kirkcaldy - seeking his first tour title - missed from five feet to card a 69 and finish alongside Rumford (68) and Fraser (68) on 11 under.

The players returned to the 18th and after Whiteford and Fraser missed the green in two, Rumford seized his opportunity in brilliant fashion with a stunning long-iron approach to four feet.

Whiteford chipped and putted for a birdie and Fraser looked certain to also make four after chipping to two feet, but Rumford calmly holed out for a winning eagle.

France's Romain Wattel finished fourth on nine under par, with world number seven Louis Oosthuizen a shot further back. Overnight leader Alex Noren suffered a penalty shot at the second when his ball moved a fraction as he addressed his par putt, eventually carding a 74 to finish in a tie for sixth.

Rumford's last win also came in dramatic fashion in a play-off when he chipped in at the first extra hole to beat England's Phillip Archer at the European Masters in 2007.

"There's mixed emotions coming home," an emotional Rumford said. "I'm really lost for words at the moment. There are so many people I need to thank, starting with my wife Sally. It's been hard golf-wise and raising twins (born in 2011) is not easy; the last couple of years has been trying.

"She's an amazing lady - her birthday was on Saturday - and a great support to me, it's why I am standing here."

Rumford looked out of contention when he bogeyed three of the first four holes on the back nine in his third round on Saturday, but then birdied the last five to lie two shots behind Noren.

The 35-year-old from Perth then birdied the first two holes of the final round and four in a row from the sixth to be out in 30, maintaining a two-shot cushion after a bogey on the 13th was immediately cancelled out with a birdie on the 14th.

Then came the drama of the closing two holes, but a quick phone call to coach Pete Cowen helped get his game back on track before the play-off.

"I battled with my driver constantly, that's what keeps me out of most golf tournaments most weeks, but Pete's done a tremendous job," added Rumford, who also hailed Adam Scott's win in the Masters as a "huge inspiration" for Australian golfers.

"I left a few drives right, it was not just 17 and 18. The whole back nine I was feeling a bit stuck but I had a quick word with Pete, hit five or six balls off the first tee and it obviously did the trick.

"It's a funny game; it was an absolute rollercoaster ride of emotions out there this afternoon. My last five holes yesterday and my front nine got me in a good position to take this tournament. The 17th made work a whole lot more difficult but I'm really pleased with the result."

Whiteford had mixed emotions after missing the chance to win in regulation, but pocketing prize money of £160,000 - his biggest career payday.

"Once the dust settles (it has been) a great week," Whiteford told European Tour Radio. "I've probably just about done enough to keep my card. I know it's not what I should be thinking about but I've done that and can press on for the rest of the season.

"Guys like me don't get many chances to win tournaments; whether it was four or five feet, I hit a decent putt, it didn't go in and then at least we got beaten by a three in the play-off and didn't throw it away.

"I had a great chance, hit 5-iron into the par-five and bailed out a wee bit. Hit an average chip and thought a decent putt but obviously misread it. I will take the positives and move on."

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