A YEAR that started dramatically for Brett Rumford is ending as one to remember.
After being hospitalised in South Africa in March with a blocked intestine, Rumford missed much of the year recovering from major surgery. One of his rare tournament appearances came at July’s Open Championship.
However, three months after the year's third major at the WA PGA, he was victorious.
A week later he was T18 at the WA Open and at last week’s Australian Masters the Western Australian finished in a tie for sixth.
At this week’s Australian Open, Rumford now finds himself inside the top 10 with one round to go. With more winds forecast for Sunday and low numbers a rarity in the scorer’s hut, the five-time European Tour winner could be well in the mix by Sunday afternoon.
Last year, Rumford played in the last group of the tournament, but he and Greg Chalmers were blown away, not just by the wind, but by one of the greatest rounds of golf imaginable - playing partner Jordan Spieth’s famous 63.
With a traumatic year now behind him and, seemingly, a new lease on life, Rumford has a secret ingredient to his arsenal: happiness and health.
“I’m just taking everything in my stride at the moment,” Rumford said after his round on Saturday.
“I’m just enjoying walking the fairways and just loving being out here and hitting some good shots.”
It isn’t just surgery that Rumford is still recovering from. Eight weeks ago he also had shingles, which is caused by the same virus as chickenpox.
“I’m just monitoring my health and my endurance and see how the immune system is going and it seems to be going really, really well,” he said.
“[My] body’s responded really well and I’m just more happy with my health rather than anything else, rather than my performance.”
Rumford battled through the heat and gusty wind on Thursday to card a great round of 69. However, in the tamer conditions on Friday, he shot a disappointing 3-over 74. Playing with Nick Cullen, he continued that form into his back nine today where he was down another shot making the turn, but fought back bravely with a back nine of 3-under.
“It was a good finish, the back nine I played well,” he said. “I had 27 holes pretty much all day yesterday and then my first nine [today] was really scrappy.
“I dunno whether Thursday’s windy conditions might have just thrown my rhythm out, but I was just battling to find the club face for 27 holes and then just played a really solid back nine.”
On the par-3 11th, Rumford found the right bunker but he flexed his incredible short game muscle with an amazing up and down. He hit his ball left and well past the pin, letting it roll up the slope off the green. His ball hung for a moment before it rolled back down and curved toward the hole, just centimetres away from a miraculous birdie.
Rumford finished his third round 1-under for the tournament and 2-under for the round, only one shot shy of the 3-under Saturday rounds of Adam Scott, Rhein Gibson and Geoff Drakeford.
He believes the reason behind the high-scoring is, obviously, the conditions and also the set-up of The Australian Golf Club.
“It’s tough, mate,” he said. “It’s very reflective of how the last three days have gone.
“The greens are starting to dry out a little bit. Still, they’re a nice pace. They’re not fast, but they’re very sloping, undulating greens as well. So, you can get caught out no doubt it you leave yourself on the high side.
“It’s playable if you’ve got control of your ball. But of course, if you don’t then the golf course is quite murderous. You’ve really just gotta play smart.
“All in all, par is pretty good today.”
A good night’s rest awaits Rumford before another shot at the Australian Open and last year’s third-place getter says he is confident.
“My good is really, really good at the moment,” he said. “I’m getting some strings of holes that are equal to my best.
“If I can match up the front nine like I did the back nine today and just keep the momentum going and hole a few putts, then you just never know,” he said.
“It is the Australian Open, there’s a lot of play for. It’s a prestigious event.”
Asked whether he agreed with former Australian Open winner Adam Scott that the event is Australia’s major, Rumford agreed.
“Absolutely,” he responded. “Playing around our Augusta, you can say, of Australian golf.
“It’s an awesome location to hold our national event. It’s a big deal for every Australian, no doubt.”
It might still be a tough task for Rumford to claim the Stonehaven Cup this year, but the chance to win his National Open is not out of his mind.
“If I can get in the clubhouse and get in early and post a number, who knows."
Photo: Justin Falconer
Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to iseekgolf.com newsletters.