Speedy Australian wastes no time and few strokes in posting 5-shot victory at final stop on PGA Tour’s Florida Swing
Matt Jones proved that touring professionals can play quickly and still shoot low scores.
Jones, who wastes no time over the ball on a PGA Tour full of plodding competitors, cruised to a five-stroke victory Sunday at the Honda Classic, the final stop on the four-week Florida Swing. After leading by three strokes to start the day, Jones closed with a 2-under 68 for a 12-under 268 total at PGA National’s Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens (scores).
“That's the best I've hit it from tee to green, forever,” said Jones, who matched the course record with a 9-under 61 in the first round and led the field in strokes gained tee to green for the week. “And to be able to do it on this golf course is amazing. I mean, you have to do it out here to have a chance, and I did it.”
Jones, 40, of Australia, won only his second title on the PGA Tour and his first since the 2014 Houston Open.
“I’ve had some tough times between then and now,” Jones said. “It was probably the calmest I’ve been at a golf tournament for four days.
“It was worth the wait,” said a man who plays as if he has no time to wait.
Jones stood out for more than his score at PGA National. When it’s his turn to play, he wastes no time in pulling a club and sending the ball skyward. Yardage and wind conditions have been calculated without delay, and his pre-shot routine is as efficient as any club golfer trying to squeeze in nine holes after work under threat of a setting sun. He even walks briskly to his ball.
Brandon Hagy, who had missed cuts in seven of 10 starts this season and had no top 20s, finished runner-up after a wild week. He was ranked No. 384 in the world and the sixth alternate when Honda week began. On Tuesday, he hustled to southeast Florida from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and, without benefit of a practice round on one of the PGA Tour’s toughest tracks, shot 7-under 273 to finish solo second.
When asked what he learned about himself during the week, Hagy said, “That I can handle some intense pressure, for sure.”
J.B. Holmes, who trailed Jones by three strokes and earned a pairing with the leader in the final round, tumbled with a 9-over 79 and tie for 46th place. It was a stunning finish for Holmes, who was one of only four players to shoot in the 60s for each of the first three rounds.
Aaron Wise, the 36-hole leader, faded with a 75-73 weekend into T-13. Through five holes of the third round, Wise led by six strokes, but he played his final 13 holes Saturday in 7 over and trailed Jones by three shots entering the final round. Wise pulled within one stroke at the turn Sunday before a four-putt from 27 feet at the 10th hole, for a triple-bogey 7, knocked him out of contention.
Phil Mickelson tied for 25th, his best finish since a runner-up at the WGC FedEx St. Jude in August, a span of 12 starts on the PGA Tour.
Rickie Fowler continued to struggle, finishing T-65. Fowler has not won since the 2019 Phoenix Open, 25 months ago.
The PGA Tour heads to Texas for two weeks, beginning with the WGC Match play this week at Austin Country Club. Then, it’s on to San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open, the final stop before the Masters on April 8-11 at Augusta National.
Matt Jones will make his first appearance at the Masters since 2014, when he missed the cut in his debut.
“It's going to be nice,” said Jones, mulling the perks that go with a being a Tour winner again. “I can go prep for the Masters this time. Last time, it was an absolute blur. I can't remember a thing about it, so I'm going to do some prep this time before.”
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