Australian Brett Rumford held off the challenge from the home favourite Padraig Harrington and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin to capture the Nissan Irish Open, a stunning final round 67, five under par, at County Louth Golf Club earning him a four stroke winning margin.
Rumford’s second European Tour victory, following his previous success in the Aa St Omer Open last year, was the first by an Australian this year and earned him €316,660, lifting him to 30th in the Volvo Order of Merit, a fine way to celebrate his 27th birthday in two days.
His experience from growing up in Perth, the third windiest city in the world, stood him in good stead over the testing links at Baltray. Three birdies in his first four holes took him to the front of the field and, although he dropped a shot on the par three fifth, he retrieved the shot with another birdie on the sixth for an outward half of 34.
Two more birdies on the tenth and 12th took him clear of the chasing pack but it was clear it would by his day when he chipped in on the 15th and then holed a 20 footer on the next to give himself a five stroke lead playing the last. A resulting six took nothing out of his victory.
“It is a similar feeling to my last win last year,” he said. “You feel mentally drained but I am burning inside, there is no feeling like this.
“On the 15th there were a lot of thoughts running through my head at that stage, caught a nine iron a bit fat came up short and it was a tough chip shot, downwind, down the hill and luckily enough it hit the pin. Otherwise I would have been back edge. I think that was the point I relaxed after that and tried to play my own game after that. I was feeling the pinch coming home.
“But you stomach just grinds the whole day. There is not a stage out there you can relax and feel you have the tournament in the bag. Even with five shots standing on the last tee you have funny thoughts running through your head and when you run through your routine you try stay in the moment as much as you can.
“And with the likes of such a strong Irish field, Padraig, Darren, Paul McGinley are all there or thereabouts. Just tried to play my own game and keep the rest of the field out of my mind which got me through this week. I’m as proud as punch.”
Harrington got off to a flying start, birdying the first three holes to get the crowd cheering but his challenge ultimately came up just short of the mark as he too closed with a 67.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “It was a good way to start, three birdies in the first three holes kept the crowd with me. They supported me all the way, carried me all the way to be honest and it was nice that I could give something back. So many times I have played the Nissan Irish Open or Smurfit European Open and been a little in the doldrums. It was nice to be up there in contention and giving the crowds what they want. It will be another one of those second places but it is a good one.”
Jacquelin kept his hopes of a Ryder Cup debut alive by also shooting a 67 to tie Harrington on ten under par.
“Confidence is back. I played the same way for the four rounds but yesterday spent half an hour on the putting green and found a great feeling . I kept it and there you go. I holed a few long putts and that’s why it was a great score today.”