THE gods are certainly smiling on Aussie golf with Matt Jones the latest to post a breakthrough win and book a ticket to the US Masters.
Jones became the fourth Aussie winner on the US PGA Tour in just the last eight events with an improbable playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open.
Jones was trailing overnight leader Matt Kuchar by two strokes going up the 18th at the Golf Club of Houston when he holed a 46ft 2inch double-breaking putt to record the first birdie of the day on that hole.
That saw him finish with a 6-under 66 on 15-under as Kuchar, who had bogied the 16th, was about to tee off on the 18th.
Kuchar, who for the second week in a row seemed to have a tournament well in his grasp, put his second shot into the water and loudly admonished himself for the lapse. “That’s in the water …. golleeee Mattie,” he exclaimed.
The resulting bogie meant a sudden death playoff beginning again on the 18th. Jones found a fairway bunker and not a great lie off the tee and could only manage to lay it up short and right of the green. Kuchar was in the middle of the fairway but again was a little wayward and found a greenside bunker.
As Jones would reveal later: “I told my caddie coming up here I would actually chip it in, so it was nice to do it.”
He did chip in, from about 40 metres for his second consecutive birdie on the 18th, to thunderous applause and immeasurable internal pleasure and satisfaction.
“It’s amazing,” the 30 year old said after what would be two of the most remarkable pressure shots of his career. “”It’s been a while coming, been out here for seven years now, and it’s good to finally get one as I’ve had a few chances. I’m quite happy right now.”
The Sydney-sider joined fellow recent first-time tour winners John Senden and Steven Bowditch and was also immediately rewarded with the very last invitation to Augusta National.
That will make the Aussie team at the 2014 US Masters seven strong, with the three golfers already mentioned joining defending champion Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, West Australian amateur Oliver Goss and Jason Day, the other Aussie to win on the US PGA Tour in 2014.
“I have a lot of tickets to go and buy right now for a lot of family back in Australia and friends in Scottsdale, so I’ve got a lot of changes and a lot of things to go and do now,” a delighted Jones said.
It will be his first tilt at the Green Jacket and his third major. Jones, a former Sydney resident now based at Scottsdale in Arizona, graduated to the main tour in 2007 after finishing seventh on the Web.com Tour. Until today he had never won one a professional tournament with his best finish at home at the 2010 Australian Open when he was tied-second behind Geoff Ogilvy. He also had a second placing on the US PGA Tour last year, his best previous result in the US.
Jones jumps to 40th in the world golf rankings and apart from a very big cheque also gains exemptions into the fields for all the majors, the World Golf Championship events, a number of featured invitational events and has a secure place on the PGA Tour for at least two years.
With all the talk and examples of slow play recently, Jones is one golfer at the opposite end of the spectrum. I recall following him for a number of holes at The Lakes during the Australian Open a couple of years back and being amazed at his quick shot routine. After lining up the ball, Jones just steps up and hits his shot almost immediately. With the huge pressure in his two 18th tee shots today, that lightning fast routine was the same.2014 Shell Houston Open Leaderboard