Date: September 07, 2008

Rumford slips up in Switzerland

Australian Brett Rumford relinquished his share of the halfway lead at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland after he capitulated to record a two-over 73. Rumford now trails Rory McIlroy by seven strokes heading into the final round after being equal leader with the 19-year-old after 36 holes. While Rumford (six-under) registered a two-over-par third round, which included seven bogeys, McIlroy had no such trouble as he helped himself to a five-under 66 and he now enjoys a four-stroke lead on the field after three rounds. Rumford dropped all the way to 16th and it will take something remarkable for him to become the first player to make a successful defence of the title since Seve Ballesteros in 1978. McIlroy totally outplayed defending champion Rumford and if he takes the title, and the 268,010-pound ($AU 584,511) first prize, he will become the third-youngest winner in European Tour history. South African Dale Hayes was only 18 when he won the 1971 Spanish Open, while Ballesteros was just five days younger than McIlroy at the 1976 Dutch Open – the first of his record 50 Tour victories. Rumford threw down the gauntlet with an opening 40-foot eagle putt. But McIlroy had already hit his approach to the par-five to three feet, made the putt for a matching three and by adding six birdies went on to score a 66 to the Australian&aposs 73. That took last year&aposs leading amateur at the Open, who began his first trip to Crans-sur-Sierre with a 63, to 13-under-par and continued a remarkable turnaround in his fortunes after missing the last three halfway cuts. His closest challengers now, all on nine-under, are England&aposs Robert Dinwiddie, French pair Christian Cevaer and Jean-Francois Lucquin, Spaniard Alejandro Canizares, Argentina&aposs Juan Abbate and also Julien Clement, a Swiss player who does not have a European Tour card and is ranked 779th in the world. McIlroy&aposs professional career is still not quite one year old. He left the amateur ranks after winning a Walker Cup cap and within a month had finished third in the Dunhill Links at St Andrews and fourth at the Madrid Open. As a result he did not have to go to the tour qualifying school, but until this week his 2008 campaign had not delivered in the way many people expected. He is 89th on the Order of Merit, only six places higher than he managed in four starts last year. But winning could more than double his money and put him 33rd. McIlroy did, however, have a wobbly spell after turning in 32, his lead being cut to only one when he bogeyed the 10th and 12th. McIlroy badly needed a good shot to settle him back down and it came when his tee shot to the 200-yard next to three feet. Two putts on the long 15th brought him another birdie and he pitched close at the 388-yard 17th for his last of the day. Clement is the surprise name on the leaderboard, but Dinwiddie&aposs presence there is remarkable too. He began the tournament with a five-over 76 which had him way down in joint 140th spot, but he has since added back-to-back 64s and now has another chance to win in his rookie season on tour. McIlroy, who for his eagle on the 543-yard first needed only a drive and nine-iron in the thin air, said: “That settled my nerves.” “It was definitely more satisfying than the 63 given the circumstances. Brett is a very good player and five-under was a very good effort.” “This is my first time in this situation and I&aposm just really looking forward to tomorrow. I don&apost want to take my foot off the pedal – I&aposve a four-shot lead and I&aposd like a six-shot lead tomorrow.” “Trying to make birdies is the way I play my best. It would be fantastic to win.” Third Round of the European Masters (Par 71), Crans-sur-Sierre: -13: Rory McIlroy 63 71 66 -9: Juan Abbate 68 67 69, Alejandro Canizares 67 68 69, Christian Cevaer 68 71 65, Julien Clement 69 68 67, Robert Dinwiddie 76 64 64, Jean-Francois Lucquin 68 67 69 -8: Emanuele Canonica 67 70 68, Rafa Echenique 69 70 66, Miguel Angel Jimenez 68 69 68, Gary Orr 67 71 67 -7: Mark Foster 72 66 68, Barry Lane 71 70 65, Ross McGowan 67 73 66 -6: Thomas Aiken 72 70 65, David Griffiths 70 69 68, Mikko Ilonen 67 70 70, Carlos Rodiles 71 66 70, Brett Rumford (Australia) 67 67 73, Richard Sterne 69 70 68, Sven Struver 72 69 66 Also: -5: Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 69 71 68 -1: Steve Alker (New Zealand) 71 70 71, Matthew Millar (Australia) 70 72 70 E: Scott Barr (Australia) 69 68 76 +3: Marcus Fraser (Australia) 74 68 74