22 Mar 2021 | Professional golf |

Life starts at 40 for triumphant Jones

by Mark Hayes

Matt Jones Honda Classic
Matt Jones hoists the Honda Classic trophy, the third Aussie to get his hands on the trophy after Stuart Appleby and Adam Scott.

Matt Jones has more than a hint of Benjamin Button about him – and he’s now got fuel for his belief that his golfing career is only just getting warmed up.

The Sydneysider has twice won the Australian Open since he turned 35, and now at 40 and on the back of his dominant Honda Classic victory in Florida today, he thinks the best is still ahead.

“I've spoken to (fellow 40-year-old) Adam Scott about this,” Jones revealed after his record-equalling five-shot victory on the PGA National’s Champion Course, regarded as one of the toughest on the PGA Tour.

“(We figure that) we’ve got five really good hard years ahead of us, where we think we can do something special and I think this sets me on a path where I could.”

That path will immediately turn to Augusta National in three weeks after Jones booked his second Masters ticket by following up his course-record opening 61 with rounds of 70-69-68 – his weekend remarkably featuring the only sub-par rounds by any player in the final six pairings on Saturday and seven on Sunday.

At Jones’ first Masters appearance, he arrived tired and possibly still in disbelief at his only other PGA Tour win, courtesy of a chip-in on the first playoff hole of the 2014 Houston Open.

Jones admitted he was that tired seven years ago that he barely recollects the famous Augusta National layout. This time, though, he’s sure his new-found belief will have him in better stead.

“Monday (of that week) was washed out as well and then I had the par-3 tournament,” he said of the whirlwind.

“I can't remember much about that week, it was all a blur. So I'm looking forward to getting some preparation on the course this year.

“It really should (suit me). I was planning on taking three weeks off, but now that's changed, so I'm going to take two weeks off and then go to Augusta and then I don't know if I'm going to go early or – I have to figure out what my schedule's going to be.”

Jones’ win moved him to world No.49, although it came too late for him to make the WGC World Match Play Championship this week. It’s the second time he’s been in the top 50 – previously after his Houston triumph.

It automatically earns him entry to the US PGA Championship and 2022 Players Championship, among a host of other starts.

More, though, it gives him a card for two-plus years on his home tour after a seemingly endless battle since 2017 for that security, despite his successes on home soil.

“It means the world. It's been a battle (and) I've had ups, I've had downs,” he said.

“But to win a second time (in the USA) on this golf course in these conditions that we faced all week is, it's phenomenal and hopefully it's something I can build on for the rest of the year.

“I've lost my card, had to go to Q-School. It's just a tough job. But, no, I'll always play as long as I can. I enjoy it out here, I like competition and I like challenging myself.

“I've probably under-achieved, in my opinion, for what I could have done.

“But I've got some time left. I feel like my game's getting better as I get older. I'm hitting it better, I'm hitting it longer, so there's nothing to say (ongoing improvement) won't happen.

“There's those exceptional golfers that you see on TV a lot and then there's … I don't know how many of us out here that are really, really good golfers and people don't understand, but it's just not that easy to win out here.

“And there are great golfers everywhere. I was just lucky enough to get it done today and hopefully it leads to more.”

As ever, Jones paid tribute to his long-time coach Gary Barter at The Australian in Sydney.

They’ve got a great system of “FaceTime coaching” going on in the past year, so Jones says as much as he’d like to see his mentor at Augusta, he’s not sure it will happen.

“I would love that and hopefully he can. (But) that two-week quarantine in a hotel, I can't really justify doing it – it’s not really fair on him or his family.

“It's worked out pretty well so far so we'll see what we come up with.”

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