Scott earns top spot in respected Aussie trio
As exciting times go, it was something special for Australian golf in 1999. One week an amateur named Aaron Baddeley won the Australian Open; the next week an amateur named Brett Rumford captured the ANZ Players Championship.
Meanwhile, whispers circulated that there was yet another amateur, Adam Scott, who could be the best of the lot.
Silly kids. They remained vibrant storylines early the next season, too. Baddeley successfully defended his Australian Open title. Then, Rumford built a five-stroke lead through 54 holes of the Australian Masters at Huntingdale, where two of his closest pursuers were Baddeley and Scott.
Great fun was in store . . . at least until Colin Montgomerie decided to spoil things. Then in his prime but coming off a winter of personal upheaval in his marriage, the sour Scotsman won with a closing 69 to roar past Rumford, who shot 76. Neither Baddeley nor Scott tossed up enough of a defense to continue the amateur magic.
Both, however, have proved themselves as professionals. One would have to give a positive nod to Rumford, too, even if he has never played regularly in the U.S.
Rumford, who had earned his European PGA Tour card at the end of 1999, turned pro in 2000, as did Scott (midseason) and Baddeley (late in the year). Baddeley took advantage of USGA generosity that still baffles folks – the blue blazers extended an exemption into the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach – and ended up making one cut in nine PGA Tour events. Rumford and Scott, meanwhile, acquitted themselves nicely on the European Tour that year, finishing 143rd and 102nd in the Order of Merit, respectively, in limited opportunities.
Rumford was the oldest of the three and considered perhaps a tad more polished, but few observers who watched Scott closely doubted that there wasn’t a bright future in store for him. Even Rumford, three years older, felt it.
“I’ve looked up to him,” Rumford said just a few days ago, in the aftermath of his playoff win in the Ballantine’s Championship in Icheon, South Korea. It was his fourth European Tour win, and though he has had a serviceable pro career, Rumford knows the pro golf road has taken these onetime Aussie amateurs in different directions.
Baddeley has authored a nice PGA Tour resume, three times a winner and 11 consecutive seasons within the top 125. And Scott? The most recent of his nine PGA Tour wins was the vaunted Masters, which inspired an entire nation. Everything about what happened at Augusta National three Sundays ago has Rumford feeling proud and thrilled for his countryman.
“I was up all morning watching. Scotty is such a fantastic role model for all Australians," Rumford said. "For having wins and to have so much success and not for it to change a person, he’s got to be commended for that.”
At the end of their first year as professionals, in December of 2000, Baddeley was ranked 129th in the world, Rumford 148th, and Scott 166th.
Fast forward 13 years: Baddeley is 100th and Rumford 122nd, while Scott, on the roll out of Augusta, is third. Translate that any way you like, but it sure sounds like these Aussies have lived up to whatever expectations were thrust upon them back in those special amateur days of 1999.
There’s no doubt who leads the way, however.
“For the Masters to come along, I think that's why it was celebrated by so many because of how nice a guy (Scott) is,” Rumford said. “He really is a down‑to‑earth, typical Australian, represents everything that we are as a country, and, yeah, so he certainly inspired me, that's for sure.”