Matt Jones ‘pretty emotional’ after life-changing Honda Classic golf win | Golf
Australian golf star Matt Jones has booked a late ticket to the Masters with a commanding five-shot victory at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic in Florida. A two-time Australian Open champion and current holder of the Stonehaven Cup, Jones converted a three-shot third-round lead into his second win on the world’s most lucrative tour with a magnificent display of ball striking at PGA National.
The 40-year-old’s final-round two-under-par 68 earned the Sydneysider a 12-under 268 winning total, a cheque for US$1.26m (A$1.635m) and a prized start at the season’s first major at Augusta National next month. Jones also rocketed from 60th to 11th on the FedExCup standings, a huge step towards potentially qualifying for the elite 30-man Tour Championship for the first time.
Little wonder he choked up after completing the biggest win of his career – coming seven years after his maiden win on the PGA Tour. “Sorry, I’m pretty emotional,” Jones said. “Seven years … I’ve had some tough times in between that and now. But I just worked hard. Had some tough times putting but just worked hard with my coach home in Australia, Gary [Barter] and it’s finally paid off.”
Brandon Hagy, the second alternate who only learnt of his late start on the tournament’s eve, finished outright at seven-under after a final-round 66. Fellow American Aaron Wise briefly cut Jones’s lead to one on Sunday before coming unstuck with a disastrous four-putt – from only 27 feet – for a triple-bogey seven on the par-4 10th hole.
In joining Adam Scott and Stuart Appleby on the Honda Classic honour roll, Jones ensured at least one Australian has won on the PGA Tour for 33 consecutive years – the longest streak by any country other than the US. Jones’ only previous PGA Tour victory came in 2014 when he chipped in on the first play-off hole to deny Matt Kuchar and win the Houston Open. That success also earned Jones entry to the Masters, his only other appearance at Augusta.
But while he needed to birdie the 72nd hole to even make that playoff in Houston, Jones dominated this event from the outset. He opened with a spectacular course-record 61 on Thursday, which former world No 1 Lee Westwood declared “possibly the round of the year”.
He relinquished the halfway lead with an even-par second round before overturning a six-shot deficit to Wise midway through moving day to regain control heading into championship Sunday. Jones’s only wobbles down the stretch were three-putt bogeys on 11 and 14. But, defying treacherous winds as he had all week, he more than made up for the slip-ups with successive birdies on 12 and 13, then another on 16 to slam the door shut on his challengers.
“It was probably the calmest I’ve been for a golf tournament for four straight days,” Jones said. “And especially [here] – you can’t get a tougher golf course to win on than this one in these conditions. So to be able to do that on this golf course is amazing and something I can build on for the future hopefully.”