Matt Jones won on TOUR for the first time in 156 events Sunday as he defeated American Matt Kuchar on the first hole of sudden death at the Shell Houston Open in Humble, Texas. Jones, who began the day six shots behind 54-hole leader Kuchar, was seven shots back after his birdie on No. 1. He rallied to roll in eight birdies, including one from 46’ on No. 18 to bounce back from a bogey on No. 17 to take the clubhouse lead on 15-under-par 273. After Kuchar made bogey on No. 18, the playoff was on. Spaniard Sergio Garcia keeps up his impressive play rounding out the podium in solo third two further shots back.
For the third time in the last four weeks, the folks from Down Under have gone under par the most as Australian Matt Jones defeated American Matt Kuchar on the first hole of sudden death Sunday. Last week, Steven Bowditch, ranked No. 339 in the world, won his first event on TOUR and this week it’s the No. 90 player in the world. Jones needed 155 events to break his maiden and boy did he do so in style. First, it took a 46’ on the final hole of regulation to give him any chance. Swish. The playoff was necessary after Kuchar rinsed his second from the middle of the 18th fairway and made bogey. Seven shot lead gone. Jones’ tee shot found the right fairway bunker and he elected to play short and right of the green, taking the water out of play. Kuchar piped his drive but for the second time this afternoon his second went wanting as it splashed down in the front right greenside bunker. After Jones chipped in, Kuchar’s bunker shot came up well short. For the second week in a row an Aussie longshot broke his maiden and sadly, for gamers, Kuchar couldn’t close the deal.
Matt Jones co-led the field with 22 birdies and only made four bogeys on the week that changes his life forever. Sure he made a triple on Saturday but four birdies helped ease that pain heading into Sunday. Being six shots behind a player who has won six times on TOUR wasn’t the ideal scenario he envisioned but eight Sunday birdies gave him a chance. He took complete advantage of his opportunity by making one more birdie on the playoff.
Jones tempted gamers heading into this season because his 2013 numbers were so very solid across the board. Last season, his best ever on TOUR of six, he was 13th in the all-around category and looked poised to break out as he racked up five top 10s and T2 at Greenbrier, his best finish ever on TOUR. He saw the weekend in 18 of 24 events and made over $1.7 million as he found the top 25 in half of those weekends. For season-long salary gamers, the payoff is today but it was a bumpy start to get here in 2013-14. Jones had zero top 10s and only three top 25s in his first 11 events of the season. That all changed today!
Moving forward, Jones has to find a TON of Masters tickets now because he’s in the field! After Day, Senden, Bowditch and now Jones, either Marc Leishman or Adam Scott will now probably win the Masters! Jones, who had never won on the Web.com Tour either, only had one second and one third in six-plus years on TOUR. That’s not a rate of return that shouts unwavering support moving forward but I’ll be curious to see how moves forward from here. Remember, this was a guy a few years ago who cut in 15 of 25 events. His best start in five previous SHO was T38 last year. He missed four other cuts and had one round in the 60s. He had three of four this week! Proceed with caution!
With his victory, Jones collects $1,152,000 and 500 FedExCup Points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 17 of 21 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every have collected the hardware this year flying the US flag. Matt Jones now joins Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day as only Australia is representing the rest of the world with the other four victories. Is there any Fosters left then?
Matt Jones joins Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had six in 21 events so far in 2014, including three in a row!
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14 10 of 20 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday. Matt Kuchar began the day four shots ahead of Sergio Garcia and Cameron Tringale.
He joins countryman Stuart Appleby as Aussies that have won at the Golf Club of Houston.
He’s the third player in the last seven years to win for the first time on TOUR at the SHO.
Entering this week, he had three rounds from 10 that were under par here, including one in the 60s.
No player has defended their title as last year’s champ, D.A. Points, fired 71-74 to MC.
The average winning score here has been 16-under. Jones and Kuchar entered the playoff on 15-under. #normalservice
Jones had the second-lowest round of the week with 66. That’s always a very nice score, especially on Sunday. The low round of the week was 65 shared by five players.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. The last three weeks have found first-time winners and they have all been in their 30s. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33) are the newest members of the club. The Prime Timers now have the lead in victories with 10.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week
Matt Kuchar: Ouch. Gamers from coast to coast watched with baited breath for the second week in a row as Kuchar couldn’t close the deal. Last week, he was level heading into the back nine on Sunday with the No. 339 ranked player in the world. He finished T4. This week, he led by four shots heading into Sunday but his splashdown in the water left of the green on the 72nd hole led to a bogey and a playoff. His bunker ball to the right of the green on the playoff hole was also from the middle of the fairway. And they were playing lift, clean and replace. #scartissue Kuchar has now finished T8, T8 and P2 in his last three trips to Houston. He’ll still be one of my favorites next week at Augusta but if he can’t close it out versus two Aussie journeymen…
Sergio Garcia: His red-hot streak of T20 or better worldwide continues again with his solo third and it was his putter that was doing the damage. That’s a great sign heading to Augusta next week. Garcia also avoided bogeys as he just carded five for the tournament and rolled in 16 birdies and an eagle. Not bad for only his second appearance in Houston! His worst finish on TOUR is T16 this season.
Cameron Tringale: After finishing T16 last year and T8 in 2012, Tringale should have been on your radar heading into the week. He opened with 65 last year as well so this course obviously fits his eye. He also had made nine weekends in a row so he’s been on a nice run. His best stretch of the season was T12-T13-T12 to open February but he hadn’t had a round in the 60s in his last three events. His 68-68-69 to open this week saw him four shots behind Kuchar entering Sunday but 71 on Sunday dropped him back to solo fourth and his best finish since his solo third last year in Tampa. He’s the quintessential two-and-done candidate here next year!
Shawn Stefani: Minor Medical Exemption completed! Stefani needed a T34 or better this week and the sponsor’s exemption thrashed that with solo fifth. The hometown hero teed it up for only the second time this season and thanks to a putting lesson from Dave Stockton, Sr., he made EVERYTHING this week. Over 530 feet of putts were holed as he attained his best finish ever in 26 TOUR events. Enjoy the rest of 2014, Shawn!
Rickie Fowler: The Butch Harmon experience is slowly but surely producing results as Fowler finished solo sixth this week. Fowler used to make his money on the greens and off the tee but now he’s longer and is hitting more greens. And holing less putts. This is the first time back inside the top 10 since his solo third at the WGC-Match Play. After his recent results in Florida that produced nothing better than T24 in three events it was surprising to see him post a top 10 on a course where his finishes were T65 and T63. Gamers like consistency more than roller coaster rides but this is what we get when swing changes are going on. I saw what Harmon has done recently for Walker and Woodland so it won’t surprise me when Fowler starts putting it together.
Retief Goosen: Welcome back to The Takeaway for the two-time U.S. Open champion! He would have had some more cash in his pocket if he hadn’t bogeyed the final two holes but this is first top 10 since the 2014 full-field opener at Sony (T8). Like Stefani, he was playing on his final exemption on his major medical exemption but needed a finish of 26th or better to keep his card. He did so we’ll see him the rest of the season as well. He’s 45 so I’m not going out of my way to fit him into my lineups but he could be useful at Pinehurst. Stay tuned!
Rory McIlroy: He remarked earlier in the week that he’s happy to be missing putts THIS week so he gets it out of his system for Augusta. He tied the low round of the week with 65 on Sunday and made everything so he’s peeking at the perfect time. His 65 on Sunday will help the Yahoo! gamers rack up some points that Kuchar didn’t bring home. Look, McIlroy is automatic. Just sign him up and forget it.
Russell Henley: After his win at Honda he went the route he did after his victory last year at Sony: incognito. But it only took him his third event this time to see him jump back into the top 10 (T7). Henley closed with 66 which included only one bogey and was striking the golf ball quite well. He finished T10 in both fairways and greens and if that carries over next week he could surprise.
Brice Garnett: The 2013 Web.com Tour grad has adapted quite well to TOUR life in 2013-14 as he’s cashed in 11 of 13 events including a career-best T7 this week. His finish was in spite of making two doubles on the week but T10 fairways, T5 GIR and 14th in strokes gained-putting helped even things out. He could be my new “regular” in Group 4 of the GolfChannel.com game…
Ryan Palmer: Last week, he literally limped home at Valero with 82 after injuring his hip in the final round. His recovery was quite quick as he was right back in the action with another top 10 (T7) this week in Houston. I wrote him off in group B because the last thing gamers need in a loaded group is damaged goods. Some theory that. He’s now played in nine straight weekends and almost half of those, four, have resulted in top 10s. Bouncing back from that injury that quickly tells me that he’s enjoying his run of form and doesn’t want the heat to cool off!
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Dustin Johnson: He WD with a slight lower back issue after his 80 on Thursday. His scorecard included 2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8. We had plenty of people on the chat Wednesday trying to play defense around those who were starting Johnson. Well, he played the best defense possible! As he moves to Augusta this week, I bet he has more fuel in his GAS (Give A Shit) tank.
Henrik Stenson: I’ve now been burned by two premium players in the OAD world this year. Rory McIlroy brought me T25 at WGC-Doral and Stenson checks in with T54 this week at SHO. The maddening part was he was T3 in fairways but rubbish in greens and almost dead-last in strokes gained-putting. Whatever. Moving on to Augusta doesn’t look the slam-dunk it did after his break-out at API.
Jordan Spieth: All systems were go after a bogey-free 70 to open on Thursday but the youngster missed the cut by one with his 75 on Friday. Panic factor? No chance! He had two bogeys and a double on Friday with only one birdie.
Keegan Bradley: After his opening round, bogey-free 66, gamers were licking their chops. After two doubles and double hockey sticks on Friday, they were not. Add a triple on Saturday and an eagle and double on Sunday and I have no idea what’s going on. Bradley rotted my lineup in Yahoo! because Johnson WD and #SpiethBoner went limp. He’s already won a major in Georgia. No reason to see why he couldn’t do it again. Form is temporary; class is permanent. T43.
Rory McIlroy: T7, see above.
Matt Kuchar: P2, see above.
Jimmy Walker: Another tournament, another top 25 for the man who leads the FedExCup standings. The only regret about playing him this week in Yahoo! was having Schwartzel and Garcia finishing better but if you had him for his 65 on Friday, you’re not too upset. Walker was Walker this week as he was loose off the tee and into the greens but putted, as usual, lights out. T24.
Sergio Garcia: Solo third, see above.
Bill Haas: The first round co-leader with Charley Hoffman on 65 made six birdies Thursday. He made seven more the rest of the week to finish T37. His double-bogey close on Sunday ruined a three-under round and made it even.
Webb Simpson: On the verge of a Sunday rally, Simpson instead dropped 31 spots with 77 to finish T61. He opened with a bogey-free 68 and only made five birdies the rest of the week. So that’s Hoffman, Bradley, Haas and Simpson who opened well and then went the wrong direction. His T61, MC, T47 is his worst three tournament streak since 2012. #alarmbells
Charl Schwartzel: He continues his fine form as he looks to add another green jacket next week in Augusta. His T19 included 75 in round two so he’s getting close, folks. #legit
Chris Kirk: First we had all the Georgia Bulldogs winning and now it’s the Australians. Wonder what sub-set is next? Maybe that should be the poll question on Wednesday. Kirk joined the club with a great first round (68) but finished 74-75-75 and T65. Sigh.
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