Reigning ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth champion Brett Rumford got his title defence off to the perfect start at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
The West Australian was off to a flyer with seven birdies on his front nine; he stumbled with bogeys on the first and third holes (his 10th and 12th) before getting back on track with three more birdies coming home to finish with an eight-under 64 to hold a two-shot lead.
“I’m leading, I’m inside the top-24 and that’s my only focus this week – to finish inside that number whether I lead the qualifying again. That would be a nice bonus, but it’s not my priority this week and I’m playing accordingly,” said Rumford who led for all three rounds in last year’s tournament before the matchplay on Sunday.
“I think some golf courses just fit your eye and others don’t. It’s not always the case, but generally you find as a trend that a lot of players go back and play well when they’ve had a lot of good performances there, and this (Lake Karrinyup Country Club) is one of them.
“The fairways are nice and generous; it’s just a flowing golf course. A lot of the holes are framed to the eye, it tells you which shot to hit, and I just love that kind of golf. The greens are great and I’ve played here a lot. So I don’t know what it is, but definitely seems to be some kind of home course advantage.”
Rumford played in the same group as Lee Westwood, who carded a six-under 66 to hold second position early, the pair enjoyed a ding-dong battle throughout their round before Rumford pulled away to lead by two.
The third player in the group, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, set the tone with an eagle on the 10th, their first hole of the day.
“I think Beef threw the first punch with a 2 at our first, the 10th hole, and I guess we just fed off each other from there,” Rumford said.
“Lee was playing great golf, steady like he normally does, and the greens were rolling nicely so if you got the ball on line rolling, if you got it to the hole, there’s no deviation to the greens. So unfortunately Beef had a bit of trouble on that front nine, which is our back, but outside of that I think we all played pretty steady golf, decent golf, and I think that’s what you need to do around Karrinyup.”
Westwood said he was happy with his strong start to the tournament, albeit with some putts not dropping, and hopes to cement his place inside the top-24 as Sunday approaches.
“Six-under is a nice start to the week,” the 1997 Australian Open champion said. “I think it’s the kind of format where you don’t really want to be chasing. If you can get out to a fast start, I think everybody’s just trying to make the top-24 for the final day.
“I hit a lot of good putts today that just didn’t go in, so I’m just waiting for them to go in.”
Playing in the afternoon, Novocastrian James Nitties made a late charge for the lead, reaching seven-under par before signing for a six-under 66 for a share of second place alongside Westwood. Nitties and the rest of the field playing in the afternoon had to contend with a wind that was proving difficult to read for many.
“It definitely wasn’t the Fremantle Doctor, the toughest thing about it was trying to pick which way the wind was going,” Nitties said. “It wasn’t that it was gusty or strong, it was just you throw some grass up; it would hit you in the face and the next it would go downwind. So I think that was the difficult part.”
Nitties came home with a wet sail with a bogey on his second-last hole but made an impressive par save on the ninth, his last hole.
“I never take driver up the last there; I was feeling good and things were kind of going my way, so I hit it out the left side in between the huge ‘devil trees’, I like to call them,” Nitties added.
“It was one of those shots where I had to take a backswing and know that I was going to get contact, and in that case sometimes you just don’t want to top it or ‘whiff’ it and I just went down real hard after it, and yeah, it came up 20 metres short of the green and that is dead right there.
“So I hit it to 12 feet, made a good putt, I definitely didn’t want to finish bogey-bogey, so a good par at the last sort of makes dinner taste a little better.”
Sitting one shot behind Westwood and Nitties is a group of nine players, including Jason Scrivener (WA), Sebastien Gros (FRA), Prom Meesawat (THA), Daisuke Kataoka (KOR), Nicholas Fung (THA), Wade Ormsby (SA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Yi-keun Chang (KOR) and Gareth Paddison (NZ).