Matt Jones will sleep on a three-shot lead at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic in Florida seeking his first win on the American tour since 2014.
The two-time Australian Open champion had a topsy-turvy day at PGA National today, starting out three shots behind leader Aaron Wise, seeing the American make early gains to stretch the lead to six, then fighting back on the back nine.
The 40-year-old from Sydney shot a third-round 69, regaining the lead when he almost holed his approach at the par-four 14th hole, then negotiating his way through the feared ‘Bear Trap’ from the 15th to the 17th with a string of outstanding up-and-downs for par.
Jones’ round was testimony to the value of hanging in at PGA National. Wise made a double-bogey at the par-four sixth hole and unravelled from that point, shooting a five-over par 75.
Meanwhile the Aussie backed his beautiful short game, making par from the left fringe at the 15th, from short of the green after a poor drive at the 16th and from the left trap at the 17th, and then a closing par at the par-five 18th after laying up with his second.
The 2015 and 2019 winner of his national championship had his only win on the US Tour at the 2014 Houston Open.
Jones is at 10-under, leading by three shots from Wise and another American, JB Holmes, and said afterward that he did not mind the windy conditions. He and Holmes will be in the final group tomorrow, a fast player paired with one of the slowest.
“I’m happy to go low with the ball flight and I’m probably a little more conservative when the wind is up,” he said. “I’ll probably play a little safer. I’m naturally an aggressive player but I”ll manage the course a little differently.”
Asked how he would handle the lead, he said: “Just keep doing what I’m doing. Just manage the golf course and take what it gives me.”
While his last win in America seems a long time ago, he pointed out to reporters today that he was not unfamiliar with being in contention. “I mean, I’ll draw on I’ve won a couple of Australian Opens in between, so I can draw on those,” he said. “I mean, playing with those top players in the final group down there was always something I can draw on. And playing out here it’s just a tough golf course. I mean, you have to go hit the ball (no microphone) so coming from Australia we grew up in a lot of wind so I’ve got 36 years experience playing in the wind.”
Cameron Davis is the next-best Australian just inside the top 20 after rounds of 66-71-70.
Meanwhile, on the European Tour, Scott Hend has a chance for a victory in the Kenya Open in Nairobi, beginning the final round tied-second, just two shots behind South Africa’s Justin Harding.
Symetra Tour player Robyn Choi, from the Gold Coast, is tied-15th entering the final round of the Arizona Women’s Classic. New South Welshman Harrison Endycott is inside the top 10 at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Louisiana Open through three rounds.