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 $US1.26 million ($1.635 million) 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.
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’ 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 seven years ago 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 get-go.
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’ only wobbles down the stretch were three-putt bogeys on 11 and 14.
But 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.