MARANA, Ariz. Brendan Jones, a journeyman Australian player, is ready for Tiger Woods. That's because he's gotten advice from his fellow Aussies who have beaten Tiger in match play, Nick O'Hern and Peter O'Malley, right?
"No, I haven't talked to Nick or Peter," Jones deadpanned Monday afternoon. "But I did get some good advice from Stephen Ames."
This much is clear. Jones could be the funniest golfer since Boo Weekley. His comment referred to the 2006 Match Play, when Ames lightheartedly said he had a chance against Woods, who had been struggling with his driving accuracy, before Woods administered a 9-and-8 whipping. Jones delivered the one-liner so well, however, that a diligent Golf Channel reporter had to ask whether he'd really talked with Ames. Jones, 33, admitted that he's never even met Ames. Or Tiger, for that matter.
This guy is good.
But when they meet on the first tee Wednesday, Jones knows what to do. "I'll probably ask him, Can I have three a side?" Jones joked.
Meet Brendan Jones, cult hero. He's from little Tuross Head, a quiet community of some 2,000 souls on the southern coast of New South Wales, Australia, and he's got exactly the right attitude about his assignment, which is a tough one for the world's 64th-ranked golfer. He normally plays on the Japan Tour, which runs from April to mid-December, so this is the middle of his off-season. He's happy with his life in Australia, where he lives with his wife and son, and he's not looking to change much.
Jones is excited and nervous and, well, pretty much just happy to be included in this WGC event. Having to play Tiger is something he sees as an honor and an opportunity. He's been getting a lot of suggestions on how to handle the match.
"My friends back home have been very nice about it," Jones said. "They said, 'And if things aren't going your way, just take out his knee.' Even the people here in Tucson today were saying, 'Just knock him on his knee if you have to.'"
This week is a free ride for Jones, who has won 10 times on the Japan Tour and who spent the 2005 season on the PGA Tour. He's known as a long hitter and a good iron player. Like a lot of Aussie golfers, he's got a fun, easy-going personality. Even though he isn't used to being under a spotlight like this, Jones seemed to enjoy his unique David-vs.-Godzilla role.
On his chances? "Well, I'm an Australian, so I've got some sort of chance. Obviously, I know I'm a long shot."
If he was a betting man? "I would probably put the house on Tiger, but I didn't fly all this way to try to lose."
On life on the Japan tour? "Well, there's no rental cars and we have to buy our own lunch. It's a very friendly tour and the greens are the best, pretty much anywhere in the world."
On the big gallery he and Tiger will have? "I played Adam Scott last year and I think there were a few Australians following us, but that was about it. A few young girls were watching Adam."
On what beating Tiger would mean? "It would mean everything. I would have bragging rights with my friends back home. I've been thinking if I could win the first hole and then hang on, that would be great, but I don't think that's going to happen somehow."
Woods is 31-6 in match play, but three of those losses have been to Australians O'Malley once and O'Hern twice. Perhaps he should consider changing his name to O'Jones.
Jones is embracing his opportunity, even if he's an overwhelming underdog. He was overjoyed that Woods decided to come back, he said, because there's something special about playing against him. It wouldn't have been nearly as momentous to face the world's No. 2-ranked player, the also formidable Sergio Garcia.
"There's only one person who gets to play Tiger in the first round, and I think I'm very, very fortunate to do that," he said. "Plus, it makes for a better story if I win."
A roomful of writers laughed at that comment. Jones laughed with them.