Despite seeing his bid to join Sir Nick Faldo and the late Seve Ballesteros in the history books ended by an impressive Branden Grace in the last 16 of the Volvo World Match Play Championship, Brett Rumford said he had enjoyed the ride regardless.
Rumford, who in consecutive tournaments captured the Ballantine’s Championship and Volvo China Open two weeks ago, was looking to become only the third man in European Tour history – and first since 1986 – to win three events back-to-back.
But Grace had other ideas when drawn to play the Australian in the first of the knockout ties at the spectacular Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort, again looking in the formidable form that saw him triumph 4&3 over defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts in the group stages.
The 24 year old from George in South Africa made five birdies before the turn but had to withstand a stirring comeback from Rumford, who made a quartet of birdies on the spin from the tenth to reduce the deficit to just two holes with a possible five to play.
Winner of four European Tour titles last year in a remarkable season following his ascent from the Challenge Tour and then the Qualifying School, Grace responded in kind, however, finding wins at the 14th and 15th holes to secure a place in the quarter-finals and end the Perth man’s record-equalling dreams.
Rumford remained philosophical about his exit, though, giving praise to his younger opponent.
“He just played too good right from the get go,” Rumford said. “The wind got up early and he just played great in the conditions, making those early birdies to go four or five up.
“But I just really enjoyed the day - it was quality golf. I started to play a little bit better through the middle part of the round but couldn't hold any putts and put any pressure back on Branden, so he seemingly had a nice, leisurely walk this morning!
“I holed a few putts after the turn and got a little more aggressive than what you should do after that perhaps, but that's match play. It's going to lend itself to getting aggressive at times and you can get those runs going.”
When Ballesteros completed his historic run in June and July, 1986 – when the legendary Spaniard won the Irish Open, the Monte Carlo Open and the Open de France in consecutive weeks – he equalled the feats of Sir Nick Faldo three years earlier.
The achievement has not since been matched on The European Tour.
Talking of the culmination of his historic treble bid, Rumford identified the difficulties presented by the intensity of the match play arena.
He reflected: “Any time you're trying to win two or three in a row of any tournament is going to be really, really hard, but match play is tough and there's a bit of potluck over 18 holes.
“As I said at the beginning of the week, 36 holes is a different story, you have more time to take it back but 18 holes – and when you get someone like Branden that's in form and playing well, his putter starting to run hot – it's going it make life very difficult. But I'm very happy.
“It's been a fantastic week and Per Ericsson and his team at Volvo did a fantastic job, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself and I hope I can experience this once again.”