24 Jun 2020 | Professional golf |
Hirsute Jones hasn't shaved down goals
by Mark Hayes
Matt Jones reached a milestone birthday during the pandemic lockdown, so he's to be excused for lamenting an end of an era.
But don't dare suggest that it's anything to do with his golf.
Rather, the recently turned 40-year-old has returned to the US PGA Tour in fine form, the only Australian to make the cut in both weeks since the season was revived a fortnight ago.
But there is something that will soon be no longer that has already become a great talking point -- his facial hair.
Jones, who became only the 19th multiple winner of the Australian Open when he saluted for a second time in Sydney in December, began to grow an "iso-beard" in his time away from the grind of the tour.
And with the blessing of his "country town" wife Melissa, he has cultivated it to a brilliant, hirsute point whereby it's a genuine talking point for the grey and ginger flecks that has garnered descriptions from "bushranger" all the way to "hobo chic".
But with his three young daughters a stubborn and persuasive voting bloc against the whiskers, they're about to hit the floor.
Jones, joining an Aussie media hook-up before this week's Travelers Championship in Connecticut, denied he was troubled by entering his fifth decade.
"No, not at all. I definitely haven't started the midlife crisis just yet," Jones joked.
"Who knows when that will come? But it was just something fun to do, and when your wife likes it, you have a tendency to keep things going.
"My kids do not like it, so they're excited to get to shave it off. It was just since we had time to do it, it's something I've always wanted to do.
"But a lot of the guys out on tour have said, `Why would you want to make yourself look older?, which is a good point.
"But I don't mind it at all."
As opposed to the beard, there's no end in sight for Jones' PGA Tour ambitions.
His Houston Open win in 2014 remains his only top-level title, but on current form he's far from ready to concede it will be a one-off despite the physical changes some are bringing to the sport.
"I definitely think (more victories are) within me.
"The game is changing, as you can see with what Bryson (DeChambeau) is doing (in terms of his bulk), it's heading in a different direction.
"But I'm still going to have chances to win a golf tournament, it's just up to me if I can make the putts when I need to or hit the golf shot when I need to.
"I think I can do that. I still believe, yes, that I have many more years of chances to win golf tournaments."
To that end, Jones remains bouyant after his Sydney triumph, his second in the past five years, both on his home course at The Australian.
"Any time you win a golf tournament, it doesn't matter if it's a mini-tour event, a (PGA Tour) event, winning only helps," he said.
"Winning is very tough to do in this sport, and yeah, winning that Australian Open against that (quality) field was a big boost for me.
"I came back to Australia just for one purpose, and that was to win that golf tournament, so I probably need that mindset more often out here.
"Admittedly it was on my home golf course, but that doesn't matter, you've still got to win and you've still got to make the putts.
"It's a big confidence boost."
Jones, who has carded no round worse than 71 in the eight back off the break to moved to 71st in the FedEx Cup race, is finding post-Covid golf an eye-opener.
"It's been great to be back out ... I'm definitely using a lot more hand sanitiser than I ever have in my life," he joked.
"As for the fans, it doesn't really change that much for me because unless a player like me was in one of the last few groups, we never really had that many fans following us.
"Playing out there during a tournament is a lot more playing like a practice round I find nowadays, that it's just three guys out there playing. You're not waving to a crowd or anything, so they seem to be a lot more like a practice round.
"It seems to be a lot more relaxed in the first two events, I noticed. And the biggest thing I know is playing a golf course without grandstands around certain holes, it's amazing how weird a golf hole looks without having grandstands on it.
"We've become so accustomed to playing the 18th hole surrounded by grandstands and you play here this week at the Travelers and there's no grandstands around it, playing that hole looks very different.
"It can make it look longer and shorter, too, which that's probably the biggest difference I notice."
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