Aussies rule as Matt Jones wins Houston Open
Houston, Texas: Sydneysider Matt Jones made it four wins in seven weeks by Australians on the PGA Tour when he brilliantly holed a 46-foot birdie putt and a 42-yard chip shot on the Shell Houston Open’s final two holes to earn his first PGA Tour victory and a trip to the Masters.
Jones’ chip-in came on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff against the hapless American Matt Kuchar.
It was the second week in succession a ‘Down Under’ golfer has come out on top on the world’s greatest stage following in the footsteps of Queensland’s Steven Bowditch who kept Kuchar at arm’s length to win last week’s Valero Texas Open.
It is Australia’s best-ever start on the PGA Tour and it now means Jones is now the seventh Australian to earn his way into this week’s Masters.
In fact, the list of Australian winners this year reads:-
- Jason Day – WGC Accenture Match-Play Championship
- John Senden – Valspar Championship
- Steven Bowditch – Valero Texas Open
- Matt Jones – Shell Houston Open
And when one considers how well Adam Scott competed in the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational it could have been an unprecedented four wins in succession on the PGA Tour.
Matt Jones celebrates at the Shell Houston Open (Credit: Getty Images)
In fact, it is the first time Aussies have won back-to-back since Adam Scott won the 2010 Valero Texas Open and Jason Day captured the following week’s Colonial.
Jones also joins a who’s who of Australian golfers to have won the prestigious Shell Houston Open title:
- Bruce Devlin – 1972
- Bruce Crampton – 1973 & 1975
- David Graham 1983
- Stuart Appleby – 1999 & 2006
- Robert Allenby – 2000
- Adam Scott – 2007
And taking nothing away from Kuchar who was looking to become only the third player among the world’s top-15 to win on this year’s 2013/14 PGA Tour wraparound schedule.
Jones won after Kuchar was unable to hole out from the greenside bunker at No. 18, site of the playoff’s first hole.
Jones (66) and Kuchar (72) both finished at 15-under 273.
Jones, who played in Sunday’s second-to-last group, was two shots behind after driving into a hazard on the 17th hole, but holed a lengthy birdie putt on No. 18.
Kuchar still had a one-shot lead as he stood in the 18th fairway, but hit his 214-yard approach shot into water left of the green. He got up-and-down from 64 yards to force a playoff.
Jones’ drive on the first playoff hole went into a fairway bunker, while Kuchar hit the fairway. Both players hit their approach shots right of the green.
The victory is the first of Jones’ career. He finished 32nd in the 2013 FedExCup, lipping out a 6-foot putt on the final hole of the BMW Championship that cost him a spot in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Players who advance to the TOUR Championship earn invitations to the Masters.
Jones made amends for that near-miss with his Shell Houston Open victory. Winning in Houston is a player’s last opportunity to qualify for the Masters. This will be Jones’ Masters debut.
And while thrilled to secure his first PGA Tour win and a debut in the Masters, his biggest problem now is finding accommodation in Augusta.
“I was going home to play with my 2-year-old and 3-week-old,” said Jones.
“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.”
However as Jones sat at Gate C-17 awaiting his flight to Augusta his main concern also was arranging flights for his family to travel from Sydney to join him at the ‘Golfing Cathedral in the Pines’.
This is the second consecutive week that Kuchar led on the back nine Sunday but lost to a winless Australian. Steven Bowidtch was tied with Kuchar with nine holes remaining in last week’s Valero Texas Open before winning his first PGA TOUR title.