Matt Jones is poised to join some of the legends of golf as a multiple Australian Open champion after seizing command with an ice-cool third round on his beloved home track.
Continuing his affinity at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney, where he’s been a member for more than 20 years, Jones will carry a three-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round.
Champion at the venue in 2015 after holding off Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott, and a runner-up in 2017, Jones’ three-under-par 68 on an afternoon of tough going vaulted the US PGA Tour star to 13 under for the tournament.
With three-straight rounds in the 60s, Jones is three shots clear of American Cameron Tringale, who has carded a 69.
Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya (70), South Africa’s former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (70) and English ace Paul Casey (71) are all at nine under and four back.
Sydney’s Jamie Arnold is one stroke further adrift at eight under with New Zealander Denzel Ieremia (71) after firing a tournament-best 64 during perfect Saturday morning conditions.
The highest-ranked player in the field, Casey had enjoyed the outright lead approaching the turn before making a mess of the par-4 ninth.
The world No.14 landed in a bunker, had a horrible stance, hacked out and missed a two-foot bogey putt to rack up a dreaded double, but was still not out of it.
Casey’s troubles were nothing like that of Dimi Papadatos, with last year’s runner-up driving his ball into a tree – and staying there – on the par-4 12th.
Papadatos had to go back to the tee and hit off again, his eventual double bogey being his second of the day after he, at one stage, had been just one shot off the lead.
He finished the day at six under and six behind Jones, who had a golden opportunity to join Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Peter Thomson Greg Norman and Jordan Spieth in an elite club of greats to have had their name etched on the Stonehaven Cup at least twice.
Not that Marc Leishman was ready to hand Jones the trophy after his round of 70 left the Presidents Cup star five behind entering championship Sunday.
“I feel like I’m still in it,” Leishman said.
“I’ll need to play really well, but I feel like my game is there – it’s ready to do that; it’s just a matter of making the putts.
“Hopefully, I can get the speed of the greens, make some putts and put some pressure on at least.”