ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
AP photo by Marta Lavandier / Matt Jones raises his fist after winning the PGA Tour's Honda Classic by five strokes on Sunday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — When Matt Jones won a PGA Tour tournament for the first time seven years ago, he needed a 45-foot birdie putt just to get into a playoff and then a 40-yard chip-in to take the victory.

This win was far less dramatic, yet just as meaningful. It got him back to the Masters.

Jones won the Honda Classic by five shots Sunday, with his final round of 2-under-par 68 good enough to finish at 12-under 268 at PGA National. The margin matched the largest in tournament history, tying the mark set by Jack Nicklaus in 1977 and matched by Camilo Villegas in 2010.

"It's been seven years. It's been a tough seven years," Jones said. "I've had ups and I've had downs, as all golfers have, but it gets me into a lot of big tournaments now."

The 40-year-old Australian earned $1.26 million, and this time he'll have more than a day to prepare for the trip to Augusta National. His win at the 2014 Houston Open qualified him for the Master but came just one day before he had to go to Augusta, making it a scramble to get family and friends together to share in the experience at the year's first major.

The 2021 Masters starts April 8, so he's got much more time to plan this trip to Georgia.

"It's going to be nice," Jones said. "I can go prep for the Masters this time. Last time it was an absolute blur. I can't remember a thing about it, so I'm going to do some prep this time before."

Jones started this Honda Classic with a 61 to tie the course record. He was three shots behind Aaron Wise through 36 holes after a second-round 70, but a 69 on Saturday was good enough to put Jones up by three entering the final round.

Brandon Hagy closed with a 66 to finish at 7 under and alone in second on his 30th birthday, his chance at winning doomed by a third-round 76. Five players tied for third at 6 under: Russell Henley (68), Denny McCarthy (67), Chase Seiffert (64), Brendan Steele (65) and Taiwan's C.T. Pan (70).

Said Hagy: "There's a lot of tough holes out there and there's big stakes for sure, but I've been working on some good stuff and it's nice to see some of that pan out."

The only time Jones' grip on the lead seemed in peril Sunday was midway through the round. Wise, who led by six shots at one point Saturday, had four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the front and got within one of the lead.

His chances ended at the par-4 10th. Wise hit his second shot into a bunker, then four-putted from 25 feet for a triple bogey. Jones' lead went to four, and he avoided trouble the rest of the way, while Wise finished with a 73 and tied for 13th at 4 under.

Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell, the lone Baylor School graduate playing Sunday, closed with a 71 and tied for 53rd at 3 over.

 

Spotless finish

NAIROBI, Kenya — Justin Harding held on to his two-shot overnight lead to win the Magical Kenya Open by the same margin, closing with a bogey-free 5-under 66 to finish at 21-under 263 overall.

The 35-year-old South African now has a second European Tour victory to go with his triumph at the Qatar Masters in March 2019. He tied for second at the Kenya Open last year when it made its debut on the tour.

Harding's final round included an eagle on the par-4 No. 9 — his third of the tournament and second on that hole — and the closest he came to being caught was when playing partner Kurt Kitayama of the United States briefly cut Harding's lead to a shot midway through the round.

Kitayama had eagles on the sixth and 12th holes, each a par 5, but his 66 left him runner-up to Harding. Scotland's Connor Syme (64) was two strokes further back in third.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT