APPROACHING his 41st birthday Australia’s Matt Jones has seemingly swooped from the clouds to win his second US PGA TOUR title by a commanding 5 strokes… and earn a place in his second US Masters. The two-time Australian Open winner and noted golfing speedster has perhaps learnt a valuable lesson he can take with him on his second Augusta National journey.
The former Sydney-sider opened his account at the ferocious PGA National layout in Florida with a record-tying 9-under 61 and then shot 70-69-68 to finish 12-under and cement his first US win since the 2014 Houston Open.
Jones, who turns 41 on April 19, is known for his super quick play and perhaps, offering a shrug of the shoulders when asked how he hit a 61 on one of the tour’s toughest courses.
“I’m wondering why this guy isn’t a household name,” said NBC commentator Paul Azinger, admiring the Aussie’s ballstriking display.
After a seven year drought, Jones was ecstatic with the win and hoping it would mean a big change in his career trajectory going forward. After turning professional in 2001, Jones has just four wins, including Australian Open titles in 2015 and 2019 where he beat some of the world’s top golfers. But for such an inherently talented golfer, Jones acknowledges comments that his record is something of an underachievement.
After missing the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tying for 55th at The Players Championship in recent weeks, Jones put some of his acclaimed ballstriking display down to some fine-tuning of his swing over FaceTime with coach Gary Barter in Australia.
“I told my coach and I told my friends, something’s coming, it’s getting closer,” Jones said. “I worked on the range through FaceTime with my coach back in Australia and we just started to get a feel for things. Started to get the body and the club working together and it worked all week.
“I told a friend earlier that I like my chances this week.
“Seven years between wins, it’s been a battle. I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs, but to win a second time 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.”
After turning 40 during the tour’s COVID-19 break, Jones recalled some frank conversations with his family about how much longer he would continue playing at the highest level.
After a chat with Adam Scott and a second PGA Tour title to his name, Jones now believes his most productive years on tour are still ahead of him.
“I’ve spoken to Adam Scott about this. 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,” said Jones.
“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 that that won’t happen.”
Jones put a bit of extra pressure on himself before the final round by spending some time Saturday night thinking about a possible return to Augusta National in a few weeks time.
That dream will now be a reality. And at least he has a bit of time to prepare himself.
Jones made his first Master appearance in 2014 after chipping in on the final hole Sunday to gazump Matt Kuchar, win the Houston Open, and become the last man into the Augusta National field that week.
The week was a whirlwind and remains a blur. The records say he missed the cut.
Perhaps the noted speedster can take his time and enjoy the visit this time. And perhaps he learnt a bit more in winning the Honda Classic than just some swing fine tuning.
“I probably had a goal this week to walk a little slower, and just relax,” Jones said. “I’m normally an up-pace, up-tempo person. I play golf quickly. So I tried to stay calm and stay relaxed out there. You have to be when you play this golf course. I set that as a goal this week, and it worked out.”
The Honda Classic
PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
1 Matt Jones 61-70-69-68—268 $US1.26m
T13 Adam Scott 69-67-72-68—276 $125,417
T33 Cameron Davis 66-71-70-73—280 $39,900
T46 Lucas Herbert 70-69-70-73—282 $19,070
MC Cameron Percy 69-74—143
MC Rhein Gibson 74-70—144