Featured Golf News
Jones Joins Mates in Masters
Matt Jones is the latest Aussie to join defending champion Adam Scott at Augusta National Golf Club for the upcoming Masters.
On Sunday, Jones became the final qualifier for the year's first major after a 42-yard chip-in for birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole allowed him to beat Matt Kuchar and win the Shell Houston Open.
The 33-year-old from Sydney is heading to Georgia along with fellow 2013-14 season winners Jason Day, John Senden and Steven Bowditch. Scott will also be there, vying for a second straight green jacket.
In addition to winning his first PGA Tour event and an automatic spot in the Masters, the 33-year-old Jones earned $1.152 million, 500 FedEx Cup points and a two-year Tour exemption.
Though Jones got his maiden Tour victory in dramatic fashion, he first had to overcome a six-stroke deficit and tie 54-hole leader Kuchar in regulation. Jones closed with a spectacular 6-under 66, a mere stroke short of Sunday's low round, a 65 by Rory McIlroy.
Kuchar was impressed that Jones birdied the tough par-4 18th hole twice on Sunday; before the playoff Jones had sank a 46-foot birdie putt to force Kuchar to break the tie in regulation. He didn't, bogeying the last and causing the extra holes.
"Certainly fantastic stuff to birdie 18 twice," said the classy Kuchar, who a week ago in San Antonio had lost in the final round after closing with a 75 to finish fourth in the Valero Texas Open. "That's probably the hardest hole on the golf course, and for him to put two threes is pretty impressive stuff."
Jones is cognizant of the personal importance of the victory. "Going to Augusta is amazing," Jones said. "The win means everything to me right now because that's what we play for is to win, to get - to have Augusta as a benefit - not a benefit, whatever the word is, sorry, but a reward for that win is amazing.
He also noted that a win next week by an Australian - following Bowditch's in San Antonio last week and his in Houston, would also be special. "I can't wait to get there and get some practice rounds in and hopefully play well, and hopefully three Aussies can win three in a row."
Here's what else the excited Aussie had to tell reporters after his big victory in Houston.
MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome the winner of the 2014 Shell Houston Open, Matt Jones. Matt, congratulations on your first career PGA Tour victory. Second Australian to win in as many weeks. Making your country proud and quite the dramatic finish, quite the exclamation point. With that, I'll turn it over to you for some comments on the shot and the whole week in general.
MATT JONES: Yeah, the shot, it was an amazing shot. I told it to a few people, I walked up there and told my caddy I was going to chip it in, and from my angle it's hard to tell if it's going to go in or not. You don't know if it's going to lip out, low or high, but when I saw it disappear it's probably the happiest I've been on the golf course.
Q. What kind club did you use?
MATT JONES: 54-degree sand wedge.
Q. We know how close you came to last year earning a spot to Augusta. At what point did that enter your mind today and how much did that mean?
MATT JONES: I mean, it means - the win going to Augusta is amazing. The win means everything to me right now because that's what we play for is to win, to get - to have Augusta as a benefit - not a benefit, whatever the word is, sorry, but a reward for that win is amazing. And I can't wait to get there and get some practice rounds in and hopefully play well, and hopefully three Aussies can win three in a row.
Q. When you told your caddy you were going to chip in, did you have a feeling you were going to or just boosting yourself up a little bit?
MATT JONES: My chipping has been pretty good for awhile. It's kind of a shot I've been practicing all over, a skipping one that checks and releases. So, it was nice to get in the playoff with that putt, to get in the playoff and to hit that chip to win was quite nice.
Q. Did you have a minute to talk to President Bush when you got the trophy? What did he say to you?
MATT JONES: He just said congratulations. He liked the trophy, big trophy (laughter).
Q. You call your shots often, because I talked to Scott, he said that on 18 in regulation before you teed off, you said, "let's birdie this one and see what happens."
MATT JONES: Yeah, when I know what I have to do, it's easier, if that makes sense. I've always been that way. When I know what I have to do, I seem to be able to pull it off moreso, especially playing golf with my friends, too. If I have to birdie to beat them, it's somehow I do it. It was nice to be able to do it on this stage.
Q. Can you describe the chip shot, looked like it broke right to start, climbed over the ridge, swept left.
MATT JONES: It just went left the whole way. I just had to land it into a little bit of a bank just to kill it a little with some spin and then just get on top and then let gravity and the slope do the rest of it, and hopefully I picked the right line, which I did.
Q. What has been the difference for you in the last year or so? You've been playing well, especially in big tournaments.
MATT JONES: Yeah. I've always believed that I had the golf game to do it. It's more just getting comfortable in those certain situations. And I worked hard with my coach in Australia. He comes over a lot and comes over a lot more now. But yeah, chipping and putting. It's always been - if I putt well, I'm going to be fine. My ball-striking I'm happy, I can compete with anyone ball striking. Moreso the putting, which I start to struggle with.
Q. What's your coach's name?
A. Gary Barter.
Q. What did you have planned for next week before this?
MATT JONES: I was going home to play with my two-year-old and three-week-old. So, bit of a change now that I think they'll be on a plane to Augusta as well. We've got to find a house.
Q. At what point today did you say, "I really do have a shot at this"? You were three strokes behind fairly late.
MATT JONES: I actually didn't look at the scoreboard too much because I knew I just had to make birdies and I was just out there playing golf. I actually told myself before I teed off, "This is just like playing a practice round with Rickie and Ben. Go and be aggressive and try to make as many birdies as you can."
Q. So the situation was really a situation where were you very relaxed?
MATT JONES: I was very relaxed all day. I've been in that situation before. I haven't been as relaxed as I was today. I'm sure a lot of people say that when you get your first win.
Q. What went through your mind when you bogeyed the first hole?
MATT JONES: Hit a bad club.
Q. What club?
MATT JONES: Sand wedge and should have hit a wedge.
Q. You kind of grind out a birdie on 17.
MATT JONES: I hit the tee shot and picked my tee up straight away, thinking it was perfect. I walked up there and saw Rickie's ball. And when I saw where one of the guys that does all the yardage, I knew I was in trouble. Lucky I didn't have to take a drop, I could get it out, because taking that drop and hit the shot off that lie would have been a little more difficult than pinching it out sideways and having a chance.
Q. What do you say to a guy like Matt, your namesake, in a situation like this?
MATT JONES: I mean, he's played great all week. He's had many wins. I'm happy that it was my time to get my first win. I'm sure he'll have plenty more, too.
Q. You've been out here a long time. Not many people know your name. Today you're playing with Rickie and kids are screaming, "Rickie, Rickie," all day long. Nobody is screaming your name. You're used to that.
MATT JONES: Yeah. It doesn't bother me at all. As long as there's people out here watching golf and enjoying themselves, I'm more than happy to be out there and try to entertain them.
Q. What's this win mean for you? What does it mean to you?
MATT JONES: It's hard to explain. Your first win, something - I played golf since I was four. I've wanted the play golf for a living since I was six when I met Greg Norman and then to get out under the PGA Tour was a goal and now to get my first win is one of my goals, and there's more goals I want the achieve this year.
Q. Steven said he heard from Greg fairly quickly after his win. Did you hear from Greg as well?
MATT JONES: I didn't know Steve heard from him.
Q. What's the best Matt Jones story for those who don't know a lot about you?
MATT JONES: You'd have to ask - I'm not sure at all. I don't really have many.
Q. You met Greg Norman at six.
MATT JONES: I had a hole-in-one when I was six. He was playing the Australian Masters at Huntingdale and TV show got hold of it and they ran with it and then they flew me down there to meet him. So, that's probably my story you could write.
Q. What would have been your previous most memorable shot in a professional tournament before that pitch?
MATT JONES: We play so many. I don't even keep track. Hitting it to about 6 inches on 16 at the Phoenix Open this year, that would be a pretty memorable one on Thursday. Other than that, I haven't had - I haven't had many wins and never won on the Web.com, so I can't really remember any of those shots. I won a small California State Open.
Q. This shot you'll probably remember if we ask you 25 years from now, right?
MATT JONES: I guarantee you I will.
Q. Did you consider taking more time off? You said three-week-old?
MATT JONES: No. No. She came early, thank God, so I could play Bay Hill. Thank God I've got a great wife that let's me go out and play. No, after I finished the round, I was going to skip Hilton Head so I can take three and then I'll play three weeks after that. So, I'll play Augusta and have a week off now.
Q. Can you run through the putt on 18 in regulation, that was 45-footer, that being a key putt.
MATT JONES: Yeah. That one, the one on 17, was a key putt. 18 was a little double break. I had a fairly good read on it. As soon as it got on top of the ridge and starting going down, I thought it was in because it looked good as soon as it got over there. I knew it had the right pace. Lucky I saw it go down.
Q. Were you being aggressive, were you trying to make it, trying to get it close?
MATT JONES: I was going to 3-putt before I left it short. I didn't care about finishing 2nd or 3rd or 4th, it didn't matter. I was only trying to get the win.
Q. Posed for all the pictures with the groups and in your speech you thanked the sponsors and the volunteers. You did it like you won many of these. Have you practiced that at all?
MATT JONES: No, never. I'm not the best public speaker or the best in front of the camera. Just thank the right people and it was easy.
Q. What does it say about the PGA Tour that only two players this season have been ranked in the top 15 and won?
MATT JONES: The depth of golf out here nowadays and there's more of us coming through. I mean, next year you'll see more people win come through the Web.com Tour. It's a great Tour to come through where I came through. There's going to be a lot more people. It's just a lot of depth out here, lot of good golfers. Anyone who tees it up has a chance to win. It depends if it's your week.
Q. Do you have somebody working right now on getting you accommodations in Augusta?
MATT JONES: I think my agent it. I hope so. Hopefully I'll get on a flight tonight and sleep in the car if I have to.
Q. Have you played Augusta before?
MATT JONES: I haven't. I've always said I would never go until I won or I earned my way there. I'm happy to be able to go there.
Q. Now do you wish you had gone sooner?
MATT JONES: No. I'm happy just to be there. We'll see what happens. I've watched a lot of golf on TV at the Masters. You get a little idea, nothing like playing it. So I'll play a practice round hopefully on Tuesday, Wednesday, and get an idea for the course.
Q. If Norman calls you, you going to ask for some tips on the course, right?
MATT JONES: I'm sure. I'll hopefully play a practice round with Adam, which will help.
Q. Scott said that it was just a matter of time before you won. Did you have that feeling, too, or have you thought that it was not ever going to come?
MATT JONES: No, I thought that. It was close. It's been close the last couple of years. My golf game has been really good the last two years. I had to get through Q-School last year to get on Tour and finish 32nd on the FedEx Cup. It's been coming, and hopefully it's the first of a few.
MODERATOR: All right. Matt, congratulations.
MATT JONES: Thank you.