Buoyed by a new caddie, a new self-belief and inspiration by Adam Scott’s recent victory at The Masters, Perth’s Brett Rumford has recently rediscovered his form, and is now setting his sights on cracking the world top-50.
Following his dramatic back-to-back wins in Asia, Inside Golf was one of Australia’s first golf publications to chat with our newest golfing hero.
With back-to-back European Tour wins, Brett Rumford is Australia’s newest golfing hero. Victory at April’s Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea and last week’s Volvo China Open have shot the West Australian to the top of the European Tour’s Race To Dubai. He’s also rocketed to number 76 in the official world golf rankings.
“It’s just an incredible feeling and you just feel privileged to play on a main tour like Europe, it’s so strong and so many great players out there,” Rumford told Inside Golf.
“Winning a couple of tournaments back-to-back, it’s a big deal.”
The 35-year-old is fully aware of the history he has repeated as the first Aussie to win back-to-back official European Tour events since Jack Newton in 1972. “Upon reflecting, I’m probably just more proud of what I’ve achieved, creating a little bit of history. In 41 years I think was the last time Mr. Newton had done it but Graham Marsh did it the same year, ’72 funnily enough.”
Rumford’s win at the Ballantine’s broke a six-year winning drought since his playoff victory over Englishman Phillip Archer at the 2007 European Masters in Switzerland. With no European Tour event scheduled this week, Rumford jetted from China back to his native Perth on Monday. Back into the swing of family life, he’s afforded himself little time to reflect on his stunning play.
“A little bit rundown, exhausted is what I am. I haven’t really had that much time to think about it. I’m just happy playing with the kids at the moment.”
Rumford’s win at the Ballantine’s was certainly a close call – winning in a playoff over compatriot Marcus Fraser and Scotland’s Peter Whiteford. Last week, Rumford seemingly cruised to a four-shot win with four consecutive rounds in the 60s – taking his total earnings for the two weeks to just shy of AUD$999,000.
The China Open was as much a physical test for Rumford as it was a mental one.
“Monday, Tuesday, I didn’t do a thing. I just tried to let the body recoup. The golf course is very, very hilly at the Ballantine’s, which made it physically quite draining as well. So the mental side I was very, very fresh for China last week. The golf course is flat, I played the pro-am on Wednesday and didn’t really hit too many golf balls at all through the week.”
A hot putter had been the catalyst at the Ballantine’s and a red-hot short game also carried Rumford in China. The man from Perth ranked 57th for the week in greens in regulation – more than making up for it by leading the field in scrambling. “I was feeling very, very tired on the Saturday (in China) but I managed to recoup on the Saturday evening and on Sunday I felt strong enough to obviously play the golf that won me the golf tournament.”
Adam Scott’s ascent to golfing superstardom after his miraculous US Masters victory has injected newfound belief into Rumford. Asked whether Scott’s victory had impacted upon him, Rumford left little doubt.
“Definitely. One hundred per cent. It’s just such a global event the Masters. Having known Scotty over the years, and grown up playing golf with him and being a fellow Aussie and just the significance of winning that event is just massive. I’m just so proud of Scotty for how he handled himself after the British Open defeat to Ernie Els. Even that was inspiring enough. To be able to come back from that devastation is really, really impressive. Good on him too. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.”
And while Scott’s master class at Augusta had a positive effect on Rumford, the joy of raising twin girls since their birth in May 2011 has severely hampered his preparation for golf tournaments. Hours spent grinding on the range have been reigned in over the last two years for this self-confessed ‘practicer’, in turn reducing Rumford’s ability to contend regularly.
“The last couple of years have been a bit of a blur but this year’s definitely been a lot easier. The first six months to 12 months is really difficult but then it just takes a little while to build that momentum back up again and get your network and the people around you working for you a lot more effectively.”
Until recently, Rumford was forced to scrap his sessions with a sports psychologist to leave enough time for his children.
“It was really difficult to try and mentally prepare, technically, physically, you name it. When the kids are in a good spot, it’s easier for my wife so it’s taking the demands away from me with it being easier on Sally. Now I just feel like my focus is back and I’m actually in a good place to prepare myself and play the golf that I know I can play.”
In late 2012, Rumford made a change to his team, replacing his previous caddie with 67-year-old Englishman John Roberts. Known on tour as ‘Ronnie,’ – Roberts has more than 25 years’ experience as a caddie but had never bagged a win on a major professional tour prior to The Ballantine’s. Coincidentally, on the Friday of the China Open, Roberts turned 67 and Rumford fired a five-under-par 67.
“He’s very methodical with everything that he does,” Rumford says. “He’s never played the game before but he comes from a mentality where he checks everything to the nth degree. In practice rounds he’d be out there for six hours on the Monday going through a golf book that’s already been done for yardages. He’ll double check yardages and put in different numbers just to make sure we’re fully prepared or he’s fully prepared to give me the right number.”
Roberts compliments his attention to detail with a strong fitness background. He competed in marathons around the world through his mid-40s – ensuring he never buckles under the weight of the Titleist staff bag he lugs around each week. According to Rumford, Roberts is ‘very infectious’ but can sometimes let his energy get the better of him.
“He’s definitely over the top at times, but that’s just Ronnie. Self-admittedly, he can get carried away but you’ve just got to love his enthusiasm. He’s got so much want to win as well.”
That burning desire to win has never left Rumford, despite the six-year drought between victories. While family life may be partly responsible for the wait, it’s also been a matter of luck Rumford says.
“Winning’s really, really tough. There’s an element of luck there as well. You can lose a golf tournament by three, four, five shots but have a realistic chance of winning. These things, they’re not noted.”
2010 – a ‘great year’ by Rumford’s estimations – saw him play bridesmaid to Fraser at the Ballantine’s and also finish second at the Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland. Last year, the Perthian was again runner-up at the Johnnie Walker Championship.
“Last year, Johnnie Walker, I had a good opportunity there and on the Saturday through three or four holes I went double bogey, bogey, triple and lost the golf tournament by four shots. I finished second, but it’s a very, very fine line.”
But Rumford has finally cracked the code in 2013. His world ranking of 76 is a career-high and opens up a world of opportunities in terms of the four major championships. He’s earned a spot in July’s Open Championship at Muirfield, is almost assured of a start in August’s PGA Championship and can qualify for June’s U.S Open if he sneaks into the top 60 in the world rankings.
But Rumford’s major record is almost non-existent. His only major starts have come at The Open Championship – a tie for 16th at Hoylake in 2006 and a missed cut at Royal Lytham in 2001. Major championship success, despite his lack of chances, is what’s always driven Rumford.
“Getting inside the top 50 and getting into those majors, I’ve given myself a great opportunity with the money I’ve got up so far. I’m really looking forward to that and obviously just closing out the year. If the results happen, they happen, if they don’t, then I just need to be patient with that.”
Rumford, Van Pelt confirm for Perth International
Back-to-back European Tour winner Brett Rumford and inaugural Perth International champion Bo Van Pelt from the United States will return to contest the Perth International in 2013.
With his recent wins in South Korea and China, Brett Rumford became the first Australian golfer to win consecutive titles on the European Tour since Jack Newton in 1972.
As a result, 35-year-old Rumford now tops the Race to Dubai with his 2013 earnings of 811,806 Euros.
The Race to Dubai is a season-long competition spanning 45 tournaments in 24 countries across five continents on the 2013 European Tour International Schedule with the top 60 players qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November.
Rumford has won five European Tour titles in his career and has jumped to a career high 76 in the Official World Golf Rankings, said he was looking forward to returning home with these significant wins under his belt.
“It’s always exciting to play an international tournament at home. I had a great time at last year’s Perth International, but this year I will be aiming my sights higher to hopefully round out a career-best year in front of a home crowd,” he said.
Bo Van Pelt won an all-American battle at the 2012 Perth International over Jason Dufner. He recently secured his first top ten finish for 2013 at the Wells Fargo Championship on the back of 12 top-ten finishes in 2012. Van Pelt said he was looking forward to returning to Perth to defend his title.
“I really enjoyed my first visit to Western Australia last October and I am excited to have the opportunity to defend. Lake Karrinyup Country Club was a wonderful venue and it is terrific the Perth International will be played there again,” he said.
Vice President and Director of Golf for IMG in Australia, David Rollo, said this was the first of many exciting player announcements to come.
“The inaugural Perth International was a great success thanks to our event partners, our location, host venue and the support of both the European and Australasian Tours. We intend to build on these strong foundations and it is great to secure the talents of Brett and Bo so early in the lead up,” he said.
The 2013 Perth International will be contested at Lake Karrinyup Country Club from 17 to 20 October. With a prize purse of US$2,000,000 it will again be the richest Tour event in Australia.
The Perth International is the only Australian event in 2013 to partner with the European Tour and will again be co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia. In addition to the outstanding support from Tourism WA, the event will continue to have the support of premium brands including Volkswagen, Crown Perth, The West Australian, Schweppes and TAG Heuer.