In the end it was as predicted. The 100th Australian Open came down to a couple of putts by the Saturday night leaders on the final green and the man with the three shot lead snuck a little four footer in the left edge to win.
That would only tell a fraction of the story and the madness which transpired over the final eighteen holes of this Open.
Matt Jones, the overnight leader by three shots gave them all away in the opening two holes. The bogey at the first was excusable but a pulled iron buried under the lip of the front left bunker at the second and so bad was the lie only an excavator would have moved the ball from the sand. With a double bogey Jones knew this would be no easy afternoon given he was playing alongside the player the rankings tell us is the best player in the world.
Jordan Spieth however wasn’t doing much better and by the time the Masters and US Open Champion stood on the 7th tee he was three over par for the day.
Then seemingly from nowhere Rod Pampling, the man who birdied five of the final six holes to finish second last year put 278 on the scoreboard. It’s even possible Spieth nor Jones even knew he had made the cut so far back was the Queenslander after a 74 on Saturday left him four over par and a full fourteen shots behind Jones.
Pampling, who played his way back onto the tour in America last year with some good play at the lower levels, began with a bogey, followed it with nine birdies and then holed an utterly ridiculous putt from at least seventy feet all the way up the final green for a 61.
Spieth’s 63 to win last year was a better round as it was played under all the pressure of the lead and in poorer weather but like the Spieth round, the Queenslander’s score was beyond imagination. It will go down as one of the best handful of rounds ever played in this country even though Pampling freely admitted he played almost the entire way free of the burden of winning the championship.
Pampling’s total left Jones, eight under at the time, with some room to move but not much. The way he and Spieth had begun it was no certainty they would play their way to the clubhouse without blemish and that was their unexpected task.
On cue Jones made a complete mess of the difficult 9th when his second shot found the pond and a seven was the best he could do from there. Thirty-nine out with two birdies is no way to establish any level of equanimity.
Another Jones double bogey beckoned at the seemingly simple 12th hole and only a shot holed from the sand saved a par. His sand wedge had kept him level with Pampling in the clubhouse and tied with Adam Scott and Spieth who had predictably hung on and then got himself back into the fight.
The long 14th is a birdie hole, one many would suggest was ‘easy’ but if it were renamed a par 4 it would be decried as being ‘too hard’ given the severity of the tiny and difficult to hit green. Four is no certainty but Jones took advantage and then two holes later hit a beautiful long iron into the 16th and holed from eight feet.
That sent Pampling to the airport and then Adam Scott posted a seven birdie 65 for 277. Jones knew pars in would most likely do it and he saved the first at the 17th by chipping close from over then green. Two ahead of Spieth the making of a par down the finishing par five is something most would back themselves to manage but Spieth had one last desperate bid to retain his crown.
Jones found sand from the tee and predictably played short of the water, leaving himself one hundred yards to the hole.
Speith took one last swing with his three wood and looked despairingly as it headed out over the water short and right of the green. His sense of the quality of the contact was misleading and instead of splashing short, as his body language suggested, it just carried to the front of the green and ran up within fifteen feet of the hole.
Jones, after an average pitch nervously fumbled the putt from fully ten paces up about as near to the hole as the one Dustin Johnson missed to hand Spieth the U.S Open in June.
Jones admitted to assuming the American would hole but the putt was always left. So was the Jones four footer for the win and it was no sure thing until it caught the edge and fell.
In the end it was 73 to Jones and 71 to Spieth. It was a match, in many ways an ugly one marred by schoolboy errors but sometimes they are the most fun to observe and to survive. Jones will long remember a day where all he did was survive and whilst far from his best it was something of which to be proud.