Story and photos by Brian O’Hare
IT’S hard winning an Australian Open, particularly when you have golfers like Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott breathing down your neck. Even more so when your play starts getting a little “sloppy”.
Probably not the way to do it is to begin bogie, double bogie just to put the extra pressure on yourself of seeing your three stroke overnight lead evaporate.
You fight back, as Matt Jones did at The Australian Golf Club in the final round of the 2015 edition of the event, with a couple of birdies but then on the 9th … disaster.
You put your tee shot left into a tree. The next shot into the dam guarding the green. The next one after your drop comes up way short … on a course you’ve played since you were a kid.
You walk off the green with a triple bogie seven on your card … just as Rod Pampling is showing how to do it with a course record 10-under 61.
Then on the 12th you put your tee shot into the trees again. Trying to get out you hit another tree and improve your position by about 12 foot.
You can see in the photo below that Matt Jones took a moment to collect himself. I thought for a moment he was going to snap his club across the back of his neck.
The next shot went into a greenside bunker and things were looking decidedly rough. But that’s where everything changed.
Jones holed out from the bunker for the most unlikely of pars. Jordan Spieth later mentioned it as a big turning point.
On the last after birdies on 14 and 16 and his miraculous saves leaving no further dropped shots Jones had just a one stroke lead over Adam Scott, who had sizzled home with a 6-under 65, and two strokes over playing partner Spieth, who put his second shot on the green for a very makeable eagle chance.
Jones found a fairway bunker, laid up, then put his approach short. His first putt (you can see his unlove for his putter at this point in the photo below) was about four foot short … exactly the sort of distance you don’t want to leave yourself in a tournament you’ve dreamed of winning since you were six.
Fortunately for all those willing him on, Spieth missed his eagle putt and Jones lipped his knee-trembler in.
Jones ended with a 2-over 73 to be 8-under for the tournament, beating joint runners-up Scott (65) and Spieth (71) by a single stroke. Rod Pampling was outright fourth with his course record 61 (beating the 63 set by Spieth in 2014) on 6-under.
“Terribly’s a very nice word after what I put on today,” Jones said later at his media conference.
“But I got the job done as you said. There was a lot of stress and a lot of anxious moments out there, but came through with a lip in putt on the last to get the trophy, which was nice,” he said in a dramatic understatement.
Jones agreed he had left himself with the “worst Imaginable” length of putt on the last.
“It’s not the most comfortable putt, I would have much preferred to leave it to a tap in or gimmie distance, but I was expecting Jordan to make [his]. I’ve played enough rounds of golf with him where he makes those putts. He didn’t putt well today. I thought he was due to make one and he didn’t. I was just lucky it caught the left lip and went in. I thought I’d missed it left but one of those things, it just went in and I was very, very happy.”
The 35 year old was delighted to get his name on The Stonehaven Cup along with boyhood idol Greg Norman.
“It’s amazing. It’s something I would have thought about from when I was six when I first met him. I tried not to think about it this week because I knew, as you saw today, anything can happen on a golf course. You can be one swing away from doing what I did and having no chance to win. To have my name on this trophy with like, Nicklaus, Newton, Norman, all those guys, it’s a dream come true for me and it’s something that I can’t have taken away from me.”
Jones is well aware the last two Open winners – Spieth and Rory McIlroy – went on the following year to have spectacular, Major winning years.
(His win came with entry to the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon, along with Pampling and Nick Cullen.)
“Well, I’m in the British Open so hopefully I can win that one,” Jones said. “I’m not in any other Majors right now but look, it was a very stressful day for me. It was a new experience for me. I had it at the PGA. I battled away today, which was fantastic, the way I did. I could have let it slip and let it get away easily but I fought it out, ground it out and that’s something I can use for later on down the road next year on tour.”
Spieth wasn’t happy with his own result but was full of praise for friend and competitor Jones.
“I just told him, that was one of the best fought wins I’ve ever seen,” the two-time major winner said. “To come through what he did on 2, 9 and then that par he made on 12. Twelve was by far the tipping point in the round. I still had a chance after that, but that went from me being in the lead at least over Matt. We’re the ones who had the most holes remaining so we control it, and for him to go back to whatever he was, 1 or 2 up on me at the time there, was really kind of a game changer.
Ten for him, after [the triple bogie on] 9, that was an unbelievable par he made on 10 from the bunker and then 12 were key moments.”
Spieth repeated his fondest for Australia and said he’d definitely be back at some stage.
2016 Matt Jones Media Conference Video
2015 Australian Open Result