Second-best again for Harrington as Rumford triumphs

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The Independent Online

Brett Rumford finally lived up to the promise of his amateur career when he won the Irish Open by four shots here in Baltray yesterday.

Two days before his 27th birthday the Australian, 267th in the world, sent Padraig Harrington to his 24th runners-up finish with a superb closing round of 67 in the windy conditions.

"I should have a post to notch them all up on," said Harrington, who shared second place with France's Raphael Jacquelin. It was Rumford's second European tour title, but the first against full-scale opposition. When he captured the St Omer Open in France last year all the circuit's big names were at the US Open.

"I'm as proud as punch - mentally drained, but burning inside," he said. "Your stomach grinds the whole day and I certainly felt the pinch, but there's no feeling quite like winning."

Rumford came to Ireland 103rd on the Order of Merit, but you never would have known from the way he stormed to the £210,514 first prize with a 14 under par total of 274. And that with a closing bogey six when the trophy was in the bag.

Harrington has now been the nearly man four times this season, but considering he was 11 strokes behind with 27 holes to play he did well just to provide the home crowd with plenty to cheer about. Nevertheless, the wait goes on for a first Irish winner since John O'Leary in 1982.

Rumford, Australian amateur champion in 1998, began the day one behind compatriot Peter Lonard, but had a hat-trick of birdies from the second and went three ahead when Lonard, with memories of triple-bogeying the short seventh in the third round, bogeyed it on his return. But six groups ahead Harrington was starting to pose the biggest threat. He had birdied the first three holes, made another on the 531-yard sixth and, after taking four at the dangerous seventh, pitched to two feet at the 12th. When he then made a 30-footer two holes later he was only two behind, but Rumford replied in kind at the 10th and when Harrington could not salvage par after driving into sand on the 429-yard 16th the gap had grown to four.

It was just a question then of whether Rumford would crack - and he didn't. There was a bogey at the 13th, but he chipped in at the 15th and birdied the next as well.

Darren Clarke must have feared he was in for a bad time when he four-putted for a double bogey six from just short of the opening green. But even with double-bogeying the 13th after cutting his drive into an unplayable lie Clarke got round in 73 for a four over aggregate.

Clarke has not won for 11 months now - since his memorable victory in the NEC world championship in Ohio - and states: "I'm just going through one of those spells where things are not going my way."

* Brett Quigley produced a closing birdie to forge a three-way tie for the lead after the third round of the US Bank Championship in Milwaukee. Patrick Sheehan also converted a birdie at the par-five 18th hole, tying Quigley and Carlos

Franco of Paraguay at the top of the leaderboard at 10-under-par 200 through 54 holes.