By Evin Priest
IT wasn’t the exact final-round pairing tournament promoters wanted, but local hero Matt Jones going down the stretch with world No.1 Jordan Spieth has even greater fairytale potential.
The defending champion and world’s top-ranked golfer battling out with The Australian Golf Club’s favourite son.
Even better – the pair are great mates.
While tournament favourite Spieth fired a 67 – the low round of the day – it was Jones’ birdie-birdie finish that allowed him to sign for a 3-under 68 and, at 10-under par, secure a three shot buffer between himself and the Masters and US Open champion.
Promoters were eager to see world No.12 Adam Scott and Spieth in the final pairing on Sunday, but the 2013 Masters champion’s disappointing opening rounds have him T7 and nine shots back from Jones at 1-under, despite a solid Saturday round of 68.
Arizona-based Jones and Dallas native Spieth are good friends and regularly play practice rounds together before US PGA Tour events. This week was no different and the two teed it up together on Tuesday at The Australian Golf Club.
Jones, who grew up a member of the famed Rosebery club, started the day in the lead but battled on the front nine with three birdies and three bogeys. On the closing half, the boy from Oyster Bay birdied the par-5 14th, before bagging birdies on the par-4 17th and par-5 closing hole.
Spieth’s round got off to a nightmare start with three bogeys in his first four holes of the third round, but he clawed his way back with birdies at the fifth, six and ninth holes – coupled with a bogey at the eighth.
But he was simply stunning on the back nine. Spieth played it in no less than 5-under par, courtesy of three birdies and a hole-out eagle at the par-4 17th which sent fans wild.
“It’s always good to play with him and it’ll be good to see where he is and what he’s doing,” Jones said after his round.
As for Spieth’s reputation as the short-priced favourite to defend his 2014 Stonehaven Cup title, 35-year-old Jones joked he would have to put him off his game.
“I’ll have to have them yell during Jordan’s backswing or something,” world No.81 Jones said with a laugh.
Two shots back from FedEx Cup winner Spieth is Rhein Gibson – who will be teeing it up with Spieth next year having earned his US PGA Tour card for 2016.
In a share of fourth place is at 4-under is Aron Price and first-round leader Lincoln Tighe, of Wollongong.
Rounding out the top 10 is Geoff Ogilvy (3-under) and then Darren Clarke, Brett Rumford, Adam Scott and Todd Sinnott at 1-under.
For full scores click HERE