Brett Rumford (Getty Images)
Brett Rumford delivered a short-game masterclass as the Australian became only the 31st player to win consecutive official titles on The European Tour at the Volvo China Open.
After a nail-biting play-off victory at the Ballantine’s Championship last Sunday, matters were much more straightforward at Binhai Lake for the 35 year old, who surged clear with five birdies in ten holes to turn the final round into a procession.
A couple of dropped shots over the closing holes were no more than a footnote as Rumford signed for a four under par 68 and 16 under total – four clear of Finland’s Mikko Ilonen.
The fourth and fifth European Tour title’s of Rumford’s career signal a remarkable upturn in form – he was 138th on The Race to Dubai a fortnight ago but now leads the way on €811,806, having won €775,406 in his past two tournaments.
“As with last week I’m kind of speechless at the moment,” he said.
“It’s quite surreal – it’s the first time I’ve actually played the week after a win so I’m more than pleased. It’s hard to get my head around it at the moment.
“I managed to get up and down when I really needed to. There are some very tight lies round the perimeters of the greens, so it was tricky.
“My putter was also really on song, as it was last week. It puts a lot of pressure on your opponent when you’re saving par all the time.”
The Perth golfer started the day one clear of Ilonen, but extended that advantage to three with a flawless front nine of 33.
The lead was down to one when Ilonen birdied the tenth and 11th, but Rumford edged further in front with a birdie on the par five 12th following a spectacular pitch and then holed from 45 feet for birdie on the 13th and 14th for good measure.
With Ilonen dropping shots on those two holes Rumford was suddenly six clear with four to play, allowing him the luxury of dropping shots at the 15th and 17th and still easing to victory.
The last back-to-back winner on The European Tour was Branden Grace, who won the Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions in his native South Africa in January 2012, but an Australian had not achieved consecutive official European Tour titles since Jack Newton in 1972.
Ilonen’s 71 saw him finish on 12 under, one ahead of France’s Victor Dubuisson, with first round leader Robert-Jan Derksen taking fourth.
The result was Ilonen’s second runner-up finish of the season, and the 33 year old is now confident of re-entering the winner’s circle soon having claimed both his previous titles back in 2007.
“I had a chance to win, disappointed not to do so but I couldn’t do much more,” he said. “You saw what Brett did there on the back nine for three holes – I’m speechless. I couldn’t force the issue. I had a number in my mind, which is what Brett finished on.
“It’s my second second place this year, so hopefully there’s a win round the corner. The confidence is building; I’ve been hitting the ball nicely most of the time this year. Today I drove the ball really well, and I feel a lot more confident all round.
“Brett did so well not to make more bogeys. His short game, bunker play and wedges were unbelievable today – I don’t see too many better players than him in the world in that area of his game. So he definitely deserved to win today.”