I’ll have to admit, I thought if Matt Kuchar started slow at The Shell Houston Open, the assault would come from Cameron Tringale, but it came from 33 year-old Aussie, Matt Jones. The chip-in at the first playoff hole was the highlight of the day, and gave the Arizona State Grad his first PGA Tour win which punched the final ticket to Augusta. A -6 under par 66 on a day when the leaders were treading water, was Matt Jones’ key to success.
Although Matt Jones told his caddie he was going to chip the ball in on the first sudden-death playoff hole, the great shot was the 46-foot putt for birdie at the same hole only minutes before that put him in the playoff with six-time PGA Tour winner, Matt Kuchar.
“I walked up there and told my caddie I was going to chip it in,” Jones said. “My chipping has been pretty good for a while. … When I know what I have to do, I seem to be able to pull it off moreso. Especially playing golf with my friends, if I have to birdie to beat them, somehow I do it. It was nice to be able to do it on this stage.”
“I was going to three-putt before I left it short,” he said. “I didn’t care about finishing second or third or fourth, it didn’t matter. I was only trying to get the win.”
Jones had played in the final group on Saturday with Matt Kuchar, and Sergio Garcia, and after a 71, was relegated to the next to last group on Sunday being replaced by Cameron Tringale. The tour journeyman wanted a trip to The Masters, and he went out on Sunday and slowly closed the improbable gap that would change his life forever.
For a second week in a row, Matt Kuchar turned a nice opening 36 holes of golf into a lose on Sunday. The conditions were wet, and chilly, but we saw The Kuch win the 2012 Accenture Match Play Championship in very adverse conditions, so I don’t think his problems were attributable to the conditions.
Kuchar was tied for the lead with nine holes remaining in last week’s Valero Texas Open before being passed by Steven Bowditch. Kuchar led by one shot Sunday when he made the turn in 1-over 37. He still had a one-shot lead as he stood in the Golf Club of Houston’s 18th fairway. He pulled his 214-yard approach shot into water left of the green, though. He got up-and-down from 64 yards to save bogey and force a playoff.
“It’s smarter to bail out and give yourself a chance,” Kuchar said, “but I was looking to try to make 4 and win the tournament. Looking back, you can make par from the right bunker and not from the water. I tugged it a little too much.”