Brett Rumford (Getty Images)
Brett Rumford's bid to join Sir Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros in the record books got off to the ideal start on the second day of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.
After back-to-back wins at the Ballantine's Championship and Volvo China Open two weeks ago, Rumford is looking to become only the third man in European Tour history to win three consecutive events this week at Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort.
Only Faldo in 1983 and the late Ballesteros three years later have achieved the feat, but Rumford was not looking fazed by the size of his task as he stormed into an early lead in his first group game.
Birdies at the first, third, fourth and fifth holes took the 35 year old Australian three up on Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who almost came back from a similar deficit to halve his opening game with Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño yesterday, only to see his birdie on the 18th matched by his opponent.
Rumford remained three ahead after eight holes and was hoping to complete victory as early as possible given that, as an unseeded player, he had to play both group games today and a potential 36 holes on Saturday and Sunday to have a chance of claiming the 800,000 euros first prize.
Italy's Francesco Molinari had also quickly moved into a thre -hole lead over Chile's Felipe Aguilar, with none of the first seven holes halved.
Molinari was four up after four thanks to a conceded birdie on the first, where Aguilar made two visits to the water, and two genuine birdies, but lost the next two holes to birdies before a par three was enough to win the seventh.
Scott Jamieson was two up on Carl Pettersson, who beat Thorbjørn Olesen yesterday, after eight holes, while defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts was two up on Kiradech Aphibarnrat through six.
Colsaerts lost 4 and 3 to Branden Grace yesterday but knew a win over Maybank Malaysian Open winner Aphibarnrat would guarantee him at least a play-off to get into the last 16, something he needed last year after a draw and a defeat in his two group matches.
After both players birdied the tenth, Donaldson reduced his deficit with another birdie on the 11th only to fall three behind again when Rumford carded his sixth birdie of the day on the 12th.
Colsaerts had also moved three ahead of Aphibarnrat when a par was good enough to win the 11th, while South African Richard Sterne - who halved with Bo van Pelt yesterday - was on course for a place in the last 16 after moving four up on former US Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy after ten.
Thongchai Jaidee, who beat Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter yesterday, also looked well placed to qualify for the next round as he led Thomas Aiken by two holes at the turn.
Rumford closed out the match in style with birdies at the 14th and 15th to be eight under par for the 15 holes needed to secure a 5 and 3 win.
"I'm really happy," he said. "Jamie got off to a bad start and I capitalised on that and was three up after four holes.
"I know Jamie fought hard yesterday afternoon and I wanted to try to conserve as much energy as I could so it was nice to close it out sooner rather than later."
With Donaldson having suffered two defeats, Rumford and Fernandez-Castaño were through to the last 16 and this afternoon's match between the pair would simply decide who they face on Saturday morning.
Molinari was also into the last 16 after completing a 4 and 3 win over Aguilar to follow his victory over Henrik Stenson yesterday, while Sterne also advanced after a 5 and 4 win over Ogilvy.