22 Mar 2021 | Professional golf |
Matt Jones in Honda triumph
by Martin Blake
Australian Matt Jones has secured a breakthrough victory on the US PGA Tour in Florida, seven years after his previous win in America.
The 40-year-old Arizona-based Sydneysider clung on superbly to win the Honda Classic at PGA National in West Palm Beach by five shots, conjuring the best ball-striking of his life and dominating the event.
Jones, who played his junior golf at The Australian and in Jack Newton’s junior programs, closed with a two-under par 68 to go with his equal course record 61 in round one, a second-round 70 and a third-round 69.
It is his first US Tour win since the 2014 Houston Open, although he has won two Australian Opens (2015 and 2019) in the meantime. It was his 174th US Tour start since that win in Houston, and his 329th start overall.
The victory gives world No. 80 Jones playing rights for two years and secures a start for him in the Masters at Augusta National next month, his second visit to that hallowed ground.
Jones started with a three-shot lead over playing partner JB Holmes and immediately birdied the first hole from mid range.
American Aaron Wise made a run at him, moving within a shot through the front nine. But Wise inexplicably four-putted the par-four 10th from nine metres for a triple bogey seven and suddenly the Aussie was four shots ahead again.
Jones hit his tight draw superbly and kept himself in play at the water-laden PGA National, but a three-putt from long range at the par-four 11th left him vulnerable again.
His response was typical of his week. At the 12th he bombed his drive, knocked it to six metres and holed the birdie putt. At the 13th, he made birdie again with a hooking three metre putt and his lead was five.
From there, Jones put the parachute up, a three-putt bogey at the 14th being the only glitch. At the 15th, he hit two pure irons and holed his birdie putt, but there was still the par-three 16th with its water carry. Jones lashed a sand wedge over the flag, saw it land on fist-pumped.
Right then, he knew he was safe. "It was the calmest I've been on a golf course for four straight days," he said afterward.
Father-of-three Jones was already enjoying one of his best years on tour, with two top-10 and an 11th before today. He first played on the US Tour in 2008 after four years on the secondary Nationwide Tour, and two years at Arizona University as a brilliant, young amateur.
In his rookie year he actually led the Honda Classic into the last four holes, but wobbled in the 'Bear Trap', the dangerous stretch from the 15th to the 17th, and lost to Ernie Els. There were no such slip-ups today.
He picks up $US1.26 million for his work.
Adam Scott was the next-best Australian, rattling home with a 68 to finish in a share of 13th at four under in total.
SCOTT Hend finished tied 16th as the top Australian in the European Tour's Kenya Open overnight after he closed with a 73.
HARRISON Endycott shot a brilliant final-round 65 to finish fifth in the Korn Ferry Tour's Louisiana Open today.
ROBYN Choi closed with a 75 to finish just outside the top 30 on the Symetra Tour today.
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