Matt Jones is pinching himself after joining some of the legends of golf with a second Australian Open crown.
Jones made a pressure-laden up-and-down par at the last to claim a one-stroke victory on Sunday over South African Louis Oosthuizen, who eagled the 72nd hole to set up a dramatic climax.
Champion in 2015 at The Australian Golf Club, where he’s been a member since he was 15, Jones finished at 15-under-par for the tournament after closing with a 69.
Jones looked like winning in a procession before Oosthuizen’s late heroics.
Like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park, Jones casually walked the fairways hand in hand with his wife, a former Miss Idaho, and seven-year-old daughter Saber as he watched his challengers come and go for most of the day.
But matters turned dicey when Oosthuizen suddenly cut his lead to one and Jones found a bunker off the tee on 18.
Unable to re-find the fairway from the trap, he left his approach 10 metres short and had to hole a five-foot putt to become the 19th multiple winner of the Open – and first since American superstar Jordan Spieth three years ago.
“It’s a great honour to be able to put my name on that trophy with all those champions and there are multiple major champions on there,” Jones said.
“To be on the trophy with Jack (Nicklaus) and Gary (Player) and Greg (Norman) and Adam (Scott), Rory (McIlroy), Jordan.
To be able to do it twice is very special and something that I’ll be able to look back on later in life and be very proud of.’’
But unlike when he held on grimly to deny Spieth and Scott by a shot four years ago, after racking up double and triple bogeys on a nervy front nine, Jones wasn’t threatened on Sunday until the death.
His overnight three-stroke lead was never trimmed to anything less than two shots until he walked to the 18th.
He had one hand on the Stonehaven Cup after stretching his advantage to four shots after the front nine.
After successive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes, Jones could afford a bogey on 15 and still edge out Oosthuizen, who closed with a 66 to finish outright second.
Victory also earned Jones a British Open start next year at Royal St George’s, where Greg Norman won the Claret Jug in 1993 for a second time.
“I’ve played in maybe five British Opens and it’s the one major I would most like to win. To be able to do that and plan a schedule around that, will be fantastic,” Jones said.
Queenslander Aaron Pike (69) also punched his ticket to the 2020 Open after sharing third spot with Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya (71).
Chasing his maiden major win on home soil, Marc Leishman had been mounting a challenge until his round unravelled with a double bogey on nine.
Leishman sprayed his approach into the deep rough right, chopped out to the cart path and came up short before two-putting to fall six shots off the pace.
The US PGA Tour star eventually signed for a 71 to finish in a share of 10th at seven under.