Photo – Jones in action today – Golf Australia Kirsty Wrice
Sydney’s Arizona based, Matt Jones, has an enviable record already at the Australian Golf Club and this weekend it might well get even better.
In the benign, but smokey conditions that have been a feature of the opening two days, scoring has been outstanding on one of Australia’s best tournament layouts, with a total of eight rounds of 6 under par 65 produced on day two.
The winner of the Australian Open in 2015 and runner-up to Cameron Davis in 2017 at the same venue, Jones today served notice that he could well add a second national title with a round of 65 to go with his opening 67 and, at 10 under par, he leads by one over the leading world ranked player in the field, Paul Casey and last year’s runner-up, Dimitrios Papadatos.
A birdie at his final hole, one of four over his closing nine, gave Jones the outright lead and after his round he was delighted to be in the lead although felt a couple more ahead would have been even nicer.
“Any time you get to lead is fantastic. It would have been better to be more in front, but I’ll take 1 in front. Still a long way to go. I’m sure the wind is going to pick up the next two days, which will make it a little tougher.
Jones, however, was more than happy with where he finds himself heading into Saturday’s third round and when asked if he had left any shots on the golf course was quick to respond.
“I would say when you combine both rounds, no, I think I’m exactly as good as I could be. I made a lot of par putts yesterday, made some good birdie putts today, maybe missed one or two, but it’s evened itself out, so I’m very happy to be where I am.”
Papadatos, who is also a New South Welshman, was delighted with his performance, especially after missing out on his European Tour card recently. He was asked if he could take anything out of out of his second place behind Abraham Ancer at the Lakes Golf Club last year.
“Yeah, last year was a bit of a surprise and I played well,” said the 2014 New Zealand Open Champion. “I better take something from that and know that to get that close you surely can be able to go a little bit better one day, so maybe this week.
“The putting was good today. I didn’t actually hit it fantastic, but with the conditions, you didn’t need to hit it too good out there. Because of the wind, it was pretty still, so there were a lot of wedges in there. But I putted really well today, which was good.”
Casey began this week as the favourite and the leading world ranked player in the field and if the opening two rounds are anything to go by then there is little reason to think any differently as the event enters the weekend.
Casey has won previously in Sydney but that was 16 years ago at the nearby New South Wales Golf Club when winning one of his first events as a professional, but all this time later he returns as one of the leading players in the world and the manner in which he handled the Australian Golf Club’s layout today suggests his second Australian title might not be far away.
Casey’s morning round of 65 today swept him into the lead after his opening round of 68 on Thursday had him in a share of 6th place. The afternoon field, however, would take advantage of conditions that remained conducive to scoring all afternoon.
Birdies at his final four holes turned an average round into something special and the 15th ranked player in the world will take all sorts of beating over the weekend.
As he indicated earlier in the week, Casey is here to give it his all in his quest to win a title which would complete a remarkable year.
“As I said earlier in the week, I didn’t come down here for a jolly,” said Casey. “The weather’s perfect in Arizona right now where I live, so it would be very easy to be back home. I’ve never played an Aussie Open before and I’d love to win it.
“Two victories this year, I’d love to have a third and that would be on three different tours, which would be pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve done that before. I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m here to try and win.”
Sharing 4th place and just two from the lead are New Zealand rookie, Denzel Ieremia, International Presidents Cup team member, Louis Oosthuizen, American, Cameron Tringale, Queenslander Shae Wools-Cobb and the brilliant Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya, who just two weeks ago won one of the more prestigious events on the Japan Tour.
The big stories of the day were the missed cuts by Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia, Scott missing out on a chance to gain further tournament exposure ahead of next week’s Presidents Cup after a month away from competitive play.
The other talking point of the opening 36 holes has been the performance of the amateurs.
Victoria’s Lukas Michel is at 7 under and just three from the lead along with Chinese Taipei’s Chun An Yu while youngsters Hayden Hopewell of WA and 17 year old Queenslander, Elvis Smylie, are at 6 and 5 under respectively.