Matt Jones followed in the footsteps of boyhood idol Greg Norman by winning the Australian Open Sunday, holding off the challenge of world number one Jordan Spieth and former champion Adam Scott.
Australia’s Jones, 35, fought back from a horror start to his final round, dropping three shots in his opening two holes and also taking a triple bogey at the ninth, to win by a stroke.
The Sydney-born player regrouped to record a final round two over par 73 and claim the honours with an eight under par 276 total.
Spieth, the defending champion, birdied the last in a level par 71 to share second place on seven under with Scott (68).
The American also struggled early with bogeys at his first two holes and while he enjoyed a four-way share of the lead by his 11th hole, he stalled before ending with a birdie.
Rod Pampling carded a new course record 10-under par 61 to finish fourth, two off the pace, but did enough to join Jones and fellow Australian Nick Cullen (tied fifth) to earn the three qualifying spots into next July’s British Open.
— Australian Open Golf (@AusOpenGolf) November 29, 2015
World number one Jordan Spieth brilliantly kept alive a successful defence of his title on Saturday with an eagle at the penultimate hole on day three of the Australian Open in Sydney.
The 22-year-old Texan kept himself well in contention when he fired off a 165-metre, 8-iron second shot into the hole of the par-four 17th.
It helped Spieth glide his way to an eventual round of 67, or four under par for a seven under par total.
The double major winner was in second place, just three shots behind Australia’s Matt Jones who had putted in off the green at the 17th for a birdie and then also birdied the last in a second straight score of 68 to finish at 10 under par.
Spieth had commenced his round bogeying three of his opening four holes to fall eight shots adrift of Jones but then ignited his drive to the top with birdies at five and six. He bogeyed at eight ahead of completing his last 10 holes in six under par.
“It was one of the best fought rounds I’ve had and I can remember as I was in position at the start of the day to make a bit of a move but then I became lazy in my decision-making as you saw with those early bogeys,” Spieth said.
“So to completely rebound with that birdie on five was key as that settled me down so much as it was fantastic golf from there on.”
Spieth arrived back to Australia having won six times in the intervening period, including capturing the Masters and US Open championships and he is determined to defend his title in Sydney.
— Australian Open Golf (@AusOpenGolf) November 28, 2015
“So what I need to do is to throw out thinking about the final round 63 I shot here in Sydney last year as I will now have to accept the battle will be tight as Matt (Jones) is a tough guy to chase,” he said.
The 35-year-old Arizona-based Jones, who is chasing only a second pro career victory, was on the 16th fairway when he saw Spieth eagle the 17th and he responded with birdies also at 17 as well as the last.
“It would be fantastic if I won the Australian Open and it’s something I have thought about growing up and watching the likes of my boyhood hero Greg Norman winning this event,” said Jones.
“So I am going to give it everything I can as I would love to have my name on that trophy alongside the likes of (Jack) Nicklaus, Norman and it would be amazing.”
Jones is also in line to secure one of three places into next year’s Open Championship along with fellow Australian Rhein Gibson (68) in third place on five under par.
Fellow Australians Lincoln Tighe (70) and Aron Price (70) share fourth spot on four under par.
World number one Jordan Spieth believes his best is yet to come at the Australian Open after a second round of 68 left him four shots off the lead held by home player Matt Jones.
Added to a first-round 71, Friday's performance left Spieth on three under par and the 22-year-old American fancies his chances for the remainder of the tournament at The Australian in Sydney.
Defending champion Spieth told the tournament website: "I feel like I've still got the best golf yet, to be played. That's what's positive. That's what I'm going with.''
Spieth had struggled in the windy conditions on the opening day but found the calmer skies more to his liking on day two and that was reflected in his score.
Five birdies and two bogeys kept Spieth in touch with Jones who had set the clubhouse target earlier in the day.
Despite the winds being lighter, Spieth suggested the conditions still presented a challenge because of their changing direction.
He said: "It's not local knowledge or anything. Today it started at east-south-east and then it worked its way to east-north-east and you're trying to figure out when that's actually happening. It makes a huge difference.
"It's nothing we haven't seen before; it's just typically you don't see this much crosswind on golf courses. Today there was only a couple of holes – maybe one and two and one on the back nine – that wasn't straight sideways.''
Behind Jones lies fellow Australian Todd Sinnott on four under, before a group of five players including Spieth a shot further back.
That group includes Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Australians Geoff Ogilvy, Aron Price and Lincoln Tighe. Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and England's Lee Westwood are in a tie for 14th place on even par.