Date: April 23, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

It’s 15 love for ageless Jones

For someone who has won so many times, Brendan Jones was surprisingly nervous.

After starting the final round of the Japanese Tour's Token Homemate Cup two shots adrift of the lead at eight under, Jones had taken the lead with nine to play having birdied the first, eagled the fourth and birdied the sixth holes.

The Canberran then kicked clear with three more birdies on the 11th, 12th and 14th holes as win No.15 in Japan loomed large.

But when you haven't done it for three years and the field starts chasing hard, it doesn't matter whether you're a savvy 44-year-old or a clueless rookie, the nature of golf means nerves will bite.

Whereas Jones' putts had dropped from all lengths early in his closing round, suddenly short ones went astray on the 15th, 16th and relatively easy 17th holes as the pack, including his good mate and fellow Aussie Matt Griffin, roared home.

Jones then pulled his final tee shot into a fairway bunker and then flew his second over the green and bouncing off the grandstand.

"At that moment, I was afraid that Matt would catch me," Jones said.

But that's when Jones' stoic and calm hands kicked into auto pilot, even though he "felt embarrassed" to putt from the rough rather than chip his third.

The ball trickled to 5m from the cup, leaving that tester to stave off Griffin who had completed his back nine in a scintillating 30 to finish at 14 under.

"I told myself to believe in the efforts from practice during the off-season," Jones said, then calmly rolled in the winning putt and threw his back to take in the sky.

"It's very stressful trying to win a golf tournament — very nerve-racking and so many things going on in your head.

"I thought that I had stayed quite calm, as calm as you possibly can be in that situation. But when that putt went in at the 18th, it was pure relief that it was over."

A stunning closing seven-under-par 64 without a bogey was enough by a stroke to fend off Melburnian Griffin, with overnight leader Koumei Oda third one further back at 13 under.

It was the second time Jones has won the season-opening Token event, having saluted in 2012. But the veteran has not won since 2016's ANA Open having battled injury and doubts over his future.

"When we turn up to play at Token, the tournament at the start of the year, everybody has ambition to win the tournament," Jones mused.

"To be standing here again, having won seven years ago is an amazing feeling.

"I still feel my game is good enough, and it showed this week. I am just so happy. I am very, very happy.

"It gives a feeling that this year is going to be a good year.

"With the confidence that you get from winning the tournament, I feel that I can win more along the way. But having said that, I also know how difficult it is to win. As well as I played today, I only won by one shot.

"There are a lot of very talented good players on this tour and winning is difficult, so I don't take it for granted.

"If I keep playing like this, I will put myself in with a chance to win and that's all you can ask for — especially now that I am 44."

While Jones and Griffin completed the quinella, there were a number of other Aussies not far behind.

Sydney's Won Joon Lee built on his excellent 2018 campaign with a seventh-place finish, with Golf Australia rookie and Japanese Tour newcomer Dylan Perry a shot further back in a tie for eighth.

There were two more Aussies – David Bransdon and Brad Kennedy – also in the top-20, with Anthony Quayle also playing the weekend to finish T48.

The tour takes a week's break before resuming for the time-honoured Crowns in early May.