Late last year Matt Jones let a golden opportunity to secure a Masters debut slip though his fingers.
On Sunday the 33-year-old from Sydney produced two of the greatest shots of his life to claim the very last spot in the field for this week’s Masters at Augusta National with victory at the Houston Open.
Jones secured his first US PGA Tour win by chipping in for a birdie from 30 metres in a sudden-death playoff against American Matt Kuchar, extending the golden run by Australians who have won four of the last eight – and three of the last four – tournaments.
Earlier he had fired a six-under-par 66 final round at the Golf Club of Houston, highlighted by rolling in a 46-foot birdie putt on the last which got him into the playoff.
It was a stunning turnaround after an opening hole bogey had him seven shots adrift of Kuchar’s lead.
“It was an amazing shot,” said Jones of his 54-degree sand wedge chip to win.
“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.
“When I saw it disappear it’s probably the happiest I’ve been on the golf course.”
Jones takes Australia’s once paltry representation at the Masters to seven, joining defending champion Adam Scott, Jason Day, Marc Leishman and fellow later qualifiers Steve Bowditch and John Senden plus amateur Oliver Goss.
Jones, like last week’s winner Bowditch, has never played at Augusta National and was scrambling to change his travel plans after securing his breakthrough win in his 156th US tour start.
Instead of heading to his home base in Scottsdale, Arizona to be with his two-year-old and new three-week-old baby, Jones is headed to the season’s first major, having also earned a two-year exemption on the tour and collected a $A1.24 million winner’s cheque.
During last year’s US tour playoffs, Jones had a 10-foot putt on the last hole on Sunday to get into the Tour Championship, and as a consequence, the Masters, but lipped it out.
He didn’t spurn his final chance.
“Going to Augusta is amazing,” said Jones.
“The win means everything to me right now because that’s what we play for is to win, and to have Augusta as a reward for that win is amazing.
“I can’t wait to get there and get some practice rounds in and hopefully play well, and hopefully the Aussies can win three in a row.
“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 from there.”
The Houston Open has been good to golfers from Down Under.
Jones’ win was the ninth by an Australian in the event, joining Bruce Devlin (1972), Bruce Crampton (1973, ’75), David Graham (1983), Stuart Appleby (1999, 2006), Robert Allenby (2000) and Adam Scott (2007) as career champions.