By Evin Priest
IT FEELS like the story that was scripted – local boy Matt Jones defeating the world No.1 golfer to win his national championship on the course he grew up on.
With his wife, two children, family, friends and coach in the crowd at The Australian Golf Club, Jones defeated challengers Jordan Spieth and fellow Masters winner Adam Scott to win the Australian Open after starting the final round with a three-shot lead.
Jones battled around the course he has been a member at since the age of 15 with a “sloppy” 2-over par 73. But it was enough to enjoy a one-stroke victory over Spieth, who shot an even-par 71, and world No.12 Scott, who fired a sizzling 6-under 65.
Given the last two Australian Open champions have won two Majors the following year, Jones said his sights were firmly set on winning the British Open at Royal Troon.
Other than the Open at Royal Troon, the 35-year-old is not currently in any other Major for 2016.
“Well, I’m in the British Open, so hopefully I can win that one,” Jones said.
“I’m not in any other Majors right now. It (leading) was a a very stressful day for me. It was a new experience for me; I had (the lead) at the (this year’s) PGA (Championship). I battled away today, which was fantastic the way I did; I could have let it slip away. But I fought it out, ground it out … and it’s something I can use on tour next year.
“It was tough to win out there; I don’t know how Rod Pampling shot a 61.”
Jones had a horror bogey, double-bogey start but levelled things with birdies at the fourth and sixth. But a disastrous triple-bogey at the difficult par-4 ninth had him nervous.
But Jones credited getting up-and-down on the 10th for reigniting his confidence, and from there he took charge. He holed out from a greenside bunker for par at the 12th, while a spectacular second shot from the trees at the par-5 14th sent the crowd wild. He picked up a birdie there and at the par-4 16th, but it wasn’t without a nervous run home.
Jones caught the fairway bunker at the par-5 18th, while Spieth split the fairway. The 22-year-old superstar then demonstrated why he’s world No.1 and put his second shot to within eight feet, while the boy from Oyster Bay had to lay up from the trap.
Jones nervously left his sand wedge – and subsequent birdie putt – short. But when Spieth failed to hole his eagle putt, Jones had a par putt to win and it teased around the edge of the hole before falling to the bottom of the cup.
“That bunker shot on 12 was very important. I made it (winning) a lot harder on myself than I needed to,” Jones said.
Arizona-based Jones credited coach Gary Barter, director of instruction at The Australian Golf Club, as well as the support from family and friends for lifting the Stonehaven Cup.
“He (Gary) spends tireless hours waking up at 1am to give me lessons on the range while I’m at a tour event. This trophy is as just as much his as it is mine.
“My parents have sacrificed a lot for me to go the the states and follow my dream. I had a lot of family and relatives out here today, as well as friends from Oyster Bay and the Sutherland shire.”
The surprise story of the day was veteran Rod Pampling’s course-record 10-under par round of 61, which lifted him to lone fourth place after starting the day a whopping 14 shots behind Jones.
Pampling, who has earned a return to the US PGA Tour in 2016 at the age of 46, also booked a spot in the 2016 British Open field courtesy of finishing in the top-three place getters not already exempt in the British Open.
Pampling said his ‘secret’ was having casual drinks with mates the night before, thinking he was out of contention at 4-over par.
“My old caddie from Penrith came and had drinks with me and my (current) caddie. I had a few Bundy and cokes and relaxed.”
The other players to receive Open invites were Jones and Nick Cullen, who finished T5 with first-round leader Lincoln Tighe at 3-under par.
Terry Pilkadaris settled for lone seventh place after a 4-under 67, while there was a five-way share of eighth place at 1-under par between Todd Sinnott, Brett Rumford, Geoff Ogilvy, Rhein Gibson and Aron Price.
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