Matt Jones will not defend his Emirates Australian Open title.

Jones reluctantly informed organisers of his decision last night when his chase to retain full playing rights on the US PGA Tour became his priority.

The 36-year-old finished 126th on the main tour’s money list last season, agonisingly leaving him one spot outside those who automatically retain their full card.

Jones tried in vain to regain that luxury during the Tour playoffs, but was thwarted again when the ironically named Hurricane Matthew forced the final tournament to be abandoned.

It has left the Sydneysider with only partial status for the 2017 season and with no option but to attempt to boost his ranking by winning enough money in the early stages of the wraparound season that began two weeks ago.

He came close to solving the problem in the weekend’s Shriners Open, but rounds of 65-68-69-69 were only good enough for T15 behind compatriot Rod Pampling.

Jones will next play the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Georgia, from November 17-20, the same dates as the Australian Open.


Tournament director Trevor Herden said the news was “disappointing, but completely understandable”.

“Matt and his management have kept us in the loop with their intentions, which we appreciate, so it hasn’t come as a complete surprise,” Herden said.

“Obviously we’d love to have him defend his title, especially after all the emotions of his win on his home course last year, but it’s not to be.

“We just wish Matt well and hope he can do enough at Sea Island to make sure he’s playing where his talent warrants throughout 2017.”

Jones enjoyed an incredible run to his first Stonehaven Cup last year, leading comfortably until the ninth hole of his final round where a triple-bogey threatened to derail his charge.

But birdies on the 14th and 16th at The Australian ensured he would only need a par up the last hole and he triggered joyous celebrations when he did just that with his par putt sliding in the side of the cup in front of family and friends.

There are still 11 past champions who will tee it up at the Royal Sydney Golf Club, including world No.5 Jordan Spieth and world No.6 Adam Scott.

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