Matt Jones' Keys to Victory at the Australian Open
The Aussie overcame a disastrous front-9 to close out an anxious win on Sunday.
2-over / 10-under
It was a tale of two nines for Jones this week. Despite making 8 birdies, he wound up a combined 2-over par on the front side thanks to five bogeys, one double and a triple on the 9th hole on Sunday. The back was a different story as he posted 12 birdies and gave just two strokes back, one in the first round and one in the second.
Jones faced several big challenges on the final nine on Sunday, with the biggest coming on the par-4 12th. After a poor drive into the trees, Jones found himself lying 3 inside a greenside bunker but somehow managed to hole out to save par. After a birdie on the par-5 14th, he rolled in a clutch 15-foot birdie on 16, a putt he later said helped calm him down as he geared up for the last two holes. Of course, he didn’t make it easy on himself on 18. With a one-shot lead over Adam Scott, who posted a 65 on Sunday, Jones watched Jordan Spieth put his second shot within 15 feet on the par-5 finishing hole. But with Spieth looking at eagle and a tie for the lead, Jones laid up with his second then nearly found the water on his approach from 135-yards. The ball caught a corner of the green, and after Speith missed his eagle try, Jones was left with a mere 3-footer -- which nearly lipped out -- to clinch the title.
The win earns Jones a start in the 2016 British Open, but despite climbing 30 spots in the world rankings, the victory only gets him to 51st, one spot shy of a Masters invite. Of course, had he known he was going to win this week, he might have decided to play at next week’s Australian PGA to give him a chance to crack the top-50, but with no other events scheduled before the end of the year, he’ll have to find another way to punch his ticket to Augusta.
Jones grew up playing at the Australian Golf Club and is still a member. But despite all that local knowledge, his final round 73 is the highest closing round by a winner since Robert Allenby shot 77 in 2005. Jones will also go down as the first Australian Open winner in this millennium to have a triple bogey on his scorecard.
Despite prepping with a week’s worth of golf in Melbourne last week, Spieth wasn’t sharp from tee to green and only hit 50 percent of greens in regulation over the weekend. What let him down most had to be the 71 on Sunday that left him a shot back of Jones. He got off to a terrible start with three bogeys through the first six holes and missed a half-dozen putts from inside 10-feet. He will look to get back to his winning ways at next week’s Hero World Challenge.
Of the ten players that were under par through three rounds, Scott was the only one who broke par on Sunday, posting a 65. It was an up and down week for Scott, as he played the first 38 holes in 2-over and his last 34 holes in 9-under. He continued to struggle on the greens as he adjusts to a conventional putter, missing three putts inside six feet on Sunday and a 15 footer for eagle at 18 that would have given him a share of the lead. Scott is also heading to the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge, not far from of one of his homes.