SYDNEY (AP) Matt Jones talked about the ”stress and anxious moments” during his final round at the Australian Open on Sunday.
He wasn’t exaggerating.
Jones overcame a bogey, double-bogey and triple-bogey on the front nine Sunday to escape with a one-stroke victory in the 100th Australian Open after shooting a 2-over 73. Jones, who led defending champion Jordan Spieth by three strokes to begin the day, finished with a 72-hole total of 8-under 276.
Adam Scott, who shot 65 on The Australian Golf Club course Sunday, and Spieth, who had a 71 and missed an eagle attempt on the 18th that could have forced a playoff, were tied for second.
Australian veteran Rod Pampling, who had a course-record 61, was fourth, two strokes behind Jones.
Jones, Pampling, Scott and Spieth were frequently tied for the lead over the final hour, but a birdie on the 16th put the Australian a stroke clear.
Jones’ round included holing a bunker shot on the 12th hole for par. There was even drama at the end for the Australian, who dropped his club after hitting his third shot on the par-5 18th, thinking it had gone in the water.
The ball landed safely on the green, however, and after being too cautious with his first putt, he holed a three-footer for par that nearly lipped out.
Amazingly, he never fell out of the lead, or a share of the lead, all day.
”I got the job done, but there was a lot of stress and anxious moments,” Jones said. ”A lip-in putt on the last to get the win. That bunker shot on 12 was probably the biggest thing because I knew I had some birdies left.”
Jones double-bogeyed the par-3 second hole when it took him two shots to get out of a bunker, then triple-bogeyed the ninth when his approach shot from the rough went into the middle of a lake. He made the turn in 4-over 39 and was tied with Pampling for the lead, with Scott and Spieth one behind.
That he did, shooting 2-under 34 on the back nine, while Scott and Spieth came up short in their attempts to overtake him.
Spieth was impressed with Jones’ resilience.
”I just told him that was one of the best-fought wins I’ve ever seen, to come through what he did on 2, 9 and then that par he made on 12,” Spieth said. ”Twelve was by far the tipping point in the round.
”We’re the ones who had the most holes remaining so we control it, and for him to go back to whatever he was, 1 or 2 up on me at the time there, was really kind of a game changer.”
Scott, who trailed Jones by nine strokes at the start of the day, stayed tied for the lead when he made a 15-foot putt for par on the 17th, then pulled back into a tie with Jones when he birdied the last – before Jones’ clinching birdie.
”I left myself with a little bit of work to do there on 17, but anytime you want to put yourself in a position to win, you’ve got to make some putts,” Scott said.
Scott is winless this year and his streak of capturing at least one tournament every year since 2001 could end if he doesn’t win his final tournament of the year in early December – the Hero World Challenge at his home base of the Bahamas.
Lee Westwood closed with a 69 and finished at 2 over, 10 strokes back. U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau shot 72 and finished at 4 over, as did European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke after a 76.
Spieth set the previous course record of 63 during the final round last year to win the tournament by six strokes, with Pampling finishing runner-up. It was the first time the Jack Nicklaus-designed course had played at a par-71.
Pampling opened with a bogey but then recorded nine birdies – including 2s on three of the four par-3s on the course – and an eagle.
Jones, Pampling and Australian Nick Cullen, who finished tied for fifth, qualified for next year’s British Open as the three highest finishers at the Australian Open who are not already exempt for Royal Troon next July.
More importantly for Jones, he joins seven-time champion Gary Player, six-time winner Jack Nicklaus and five-time winner Greg Norman with his name on the Stonehaven Cup.
”I battled away today,” Jones said. ”I could have let it slip and let it get away easily, but I fought it out.”