By Mark Hayes

For all his achievements in the world of golf, Matt Jones has largely flown under the radar at home.

That could all be about to change.

The 35-year-old Sydneysider, based in Arizona, is still 36 gruelling holes from adding his name to the time-honoured Stonehaven Cup.

But with a three-shot lead after a second-round 68 left him at seven under, he dared to dream today, even if only for a brief second.

Jones, playing on his home course at The Australian, leads by three shots from big-hitting Victorian Todd Sinnott, who carded a 70 today to reach four under.

World No.1 Jordan Spieth is ominously poised in a tie for third at three under, four shots back, along with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts and former champion Geoff Ogilvy.

Three more New South Welshmen are right in the mix, with overnight leader Lincoln Tighe and Tour player Aron Price also at three under, with newly promoted US PGA Tour player Rhein Gibson alone in eighth at two under.

Jones did not bother hiding the fact that he would love to win his national Open, although he was philosophical about it.

“Of course I’ve thought about it … it would be fantastic. Any time you have a chance to win your own country’s Open, it would be fantastic,” the 2014 Houston Open winner said.

“But, two days to go, I can’t really be thinking about that now. I’ll be thinking about that if I have a chance coming down the stretch on Sunday.”

Five years ago, Jones was in contention at The Lakes, ultimately finishing tied second behind Ogilvy.

This time around, he is a more rounded player.

“Yeah, probably five more years of experience, being more comfortable in this situation and knowing that if I don’t play well enough, it’s not the end of the world,” he said of the change.
“I’m sure I used to let it get to me a lot more when I was younger but nowadays you go home, play with your kids and you forget about it.

“That’s probably what’s helped me a lot too, being married and having a couple of kids to forget about golf, away from the course.”

Tighe held his nerve and a share of the lead on the back nine, but a double-bogey on the par-four 17th after he pulled an eight iron shot into the water hazard left of the green cost him, and he ended up signing for 73.

“I played good through the middle, sort of lost my swing towards the end, hit two bad shots and got penalised really bad,” he said.

“I hit good putts all day and made nothing, so that’s just how golf is.”

The man from Wollongong acknowledged his inexperience as the first-round leader.

“It’s there. I was just a bit not used to being up there today. But you’ve got to get there to see how you react. The game’s good. I’ll see how it goes on the weekend.”

Sinnott, a Golf Australia rookie pro, was delighted with his performance: “I suppose I’m young (23) but Spieth’s younger.

“Watching what Spieth did this year winning two majors and having one of the best years ever basically, it’s pretty cool to be playing alongside him, hopefully competing against him over the last couple of days.”

Spieth, who again played in front of huge galleries, threatened to charge at Jones, but made two late bogeys en route to a 68.

“I feel like I’ve still got the best golf yet to be played – that’s what’s positive,” the defending champion said. “That’s what I’m going with.”

Ogilvy had 16 birdie putts in a magnificent ball-striking round, but could only manage an even-par 71 after canning just one birdie on the 16th.

Colsaerts played the day’s best round, a 66 that included six birdies and just one bogey.

Adam Scott fired a lacklustre 73 to be two over, nine shots off the lead.

The 2009 champ didn’t discount his chances, however, saying he felt good and that “two rounds in the mid-60s” could still be enough.

Other drawcards had mixed fortunes. Lee Westwood fired a one-over-par 72, but his good mate, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, shot a 67 as both finished square overall.

Four amateurs made the four-over-par cut with the three of those in the world’s top 11.

Australian Masters’ runner-up Bryson DeChambeau, world No.5, is tied 14th at even par, continuing his outstanding form.

Victorian world No.7 Ryan Ruffels sits at two over after a 74, while No.11 Jordan Niebrugge completed a superb comeback after being seven over through nine holes in round one to make the cut on the number.

First round bolter Yu Chan-An, of Taiwan, sits at two over after a 76.

Amateurs to miss the cut included Austin Bautista (+5 after a 74), Brett Coletta and Zach Murray (both at +6) and South Australian Matthew Lisk, who finished at 10 over after an 80.

Some big-name pros missed the cut, too, with Presidents Cup stars Marc Leishman and Steve Bowditch missing out.

Also given an early mark were former champs Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby and Peter Senior.