Golf Australia

Jones a threat in happy place

Matt Jones

If you could let Matt Jones take the US PGA Tour to his choice of venue, the line of how many times Pebble Beach would host each year would be about 10.

The Sydneysider makes no bones about his love for the coastal Californian gem and while he’d be the first to tell you his major championship record isn’t stellar, he is genuinely excited about his chances at this week’s US Open.

He hasn’t missed a trip to the annual AT&T Pro-Am here since making his debut in 2008 and has two top-10s to his credit in 12 career starts.

“I love coming here, it’s one of my favourite places in the world actually, both visually and golf-wise,” Jones beamed after his final preparations today.

“I have my family here with me in a house with the kids. I love the temperature being cooler (than regular tour stops) because I get to play in a sweater which is good for my back. I just generally like being here.”

Which ostensibly has Jones better placed mentally than half the field who are fretting about the problems Pebble Beach might present should tough conditions eventuate.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons I play well at AT&T every year, because I come here and love it. Admittedly this is a totally different course to February, but I’ve seen it so many different ways that nothing we see this week will trip me up.

“Firm and fast this week will be good for me, for all the Australians, I’d suggest. You’re going to be able to use the greens, bounce it short and run in up which is what we did growing up at home.

“And it’s going to be about managing your misses. You’re even going to be deliberately missing some greens just to get access to pins.

“For instance … the second hole, if the pin is on the left and you’re missing it, you must miss it in the right bunker because if you miss it anywhere left, you just will not get up and down.

“You’ll have to play very smart on some holes to access pins or maybe just give yourself a chance to make par.”

Asked to predict a danger hole outside those more broadly associated with Pebble Beach, Jones said the famous seventh could be tricky in a north wind.

“But I’d say the fifth, the long par three, with any wind blowing at all will cause carnage. You cannot miss it long left in that bunker or you’ll make bogey if not double and that left rough is miserable.

“But to a back right pin, you have to work ball left to right to get it to the hole and knowing there’s a hazard all the way up the right, I find it’s the toughest hole on the course.”

In some respects, having qualified in Texas earlier this month and already being close to locking up his US PGA Tour card for next year despite having started the season on limited status, Jones is already playing with house money.

“I don’t know if (my card is) locked up, but from where I’ve been over the past three or so years, it’s a much better feeling, that’s for sure,” he said.

“I’ve hit it the same, but I’ve figured out some putting. I went through a stretch from after I won the (2015) Australian Open until pretty much January this year when I putted terribly and that’s all it has been.

“And making par or birdie out here just makes a huge difference.”

Jones’ stats will attest to that. His “strokes gained putting” rank has him almost exactly 0.2 strokes per round better off this season compared to last. And while that might not sound much, it’s the difference between being ranked 71st this year and 123rd in 2018.

He’s also well up in one-putt percentage and three-putt avoidance, giving strength to his claims.

“It was mechanical and it took a long time to figure something out, but I got on it with coach Gary (Barter) and I’m feel way ahead of where I’ve been in previous years.”

Barter is across from The Australian Golf Club to work with Jones this week – almost always a positive sign for his long-time pupil.

“History would say yes, without question,” Jones said.

“I’d say 75 per cent of time when I see Gary in person, I play better that week or in the weeks straight afterwards.”

So where exactly could all this positivity lead Jones this week in an event in which he has missed the cut twice in his two previous appearances.

“I just feel really happy around this place. I’d say the top five or top 10 is very doable out here for me.

“You never know in the conditions out here, but I feel very confident something good can happen.”

And if positive vibes count for anything, you certainly wouldn’t bet against Jones in his happy place.


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