Rumford ahead as Howell pays price for rules mix-up

Australia’s Brett Rumford took a one-shot lead into the final round of the Volvo China Open as he chased back-to-back wins on the European Tour.

Strong position: Brett Rumford. Picture: Getty

Rumford ended a six-year winless streak in the Ballantine’s Championship last week, securing the title with an eagle three on the first hole of a three-man play-off at Blackstone Golf Club. And the 35-year-old from Perth is in pole position to claim a second win in succession despite finally feeling the effects of his triumph in Korea.

A third round of 69 at Binhai Lake Golf Club left Rumford 12 under par, one shot ahead of playing partner Mikko Ilonen, who bogeyed the 18th after hitting his tee-shot into the water in a round of 73.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“It was a tough day,” Rumford said. “I really started to feel tired on the back nine, things started to catch up with me. I would have come across like a wet fish, I was not in the mood for playing golf. I hung in nicely. I could feel the lethargy in my body. I mentally stayed with it and just tried to force as many pars as I could. Tonight I’ll be doing my best to try to recover for tomorrow.

“Just trying to grind out rounds of golf is what I do most weeks so, seemingly, when the conditions get tough that’s where I score my best.”

Rumford began the day three shots behind Ilonen but had wiped out that deficit before the turn thanks to three birdies in succession from the sixth, before finishing with ten pars in a row.

In contrast, Ilonen bogeyed the first and birdied the second, the former British Amateur champion then following another bogey on the sixth with a birdie on the seventh.

The 33-year-old Finn, seeking his first win since 2007, then also had ten pars in a row before a wild drive at the last gave Rumford the upper hand going into the final round.

Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal had shared the lead with Rumford and Ilonen thanks to four birdies in a row from the 10th, but then three-putted the 14th and saw his par putt from two feet on the 17th hit the edge of the hole and horseshoe out.

A 69 left him two off the lead on 10 under, with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat a shot further back after a round of 72. Former Ryder Cup star Paul Casey was just three off the lead after ten holes, but dropped four shots to lie five under.

Meanwhile, David Howell had become the latest victim of a rules controversy after being disqualified for signing for an incorrect score during his first round on Thursday.

While preparing to chip onto the sixth green, Howell’s ball moved fractionally after he had addressed it and began his backswing.

Howell thought he was covered by the first part of rule 14-5 which does not impose a penalty for playing a moving ball, but did not realise the second part of that rule states “he is not exempt from any penalty under rules 18-2a or 18-2b”.

Rule 18-2b states that if a player’s ball moves after he has addressed it, the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a one-shot penalty.

Howell should therefore have added a stroke to his score on the sixth, but signed for a five instead of a six. The incident reportedly came to light when one of his playing partners mentioned it in conversation with a tournament referee on Friday night.

n Phil Mickelson putted superbly to shoot a five under par second-round 67 and take a two-stroke lead at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, North Carolina, though there is plenty of star power around him. Nick Watney was at seven under along with George McNeill (68) and Australia’s Scott Gardiner.