Not many get their names etched on the Stonehaven Cup, so last year’s decision to skip his Emirates Australian Open title defence was a tough one for Matt Jones.
And while the 2015 champion is under no illusion that his return to his home club at The Australian next month is a title defence of sorts, he’s inspired enough to throw down the challenge to incumbent Jordan Spieth.
Jones confirmed he would return to Sydney, the scene of his emotional triumph two years ago, after winning back his US PGA Tour card with a dramatic fifth-place finish at the Web.Com Tour Championship last week.
It was that chase for playing rights in the United States that kept him away last year, but the 37-year-old is keener than ever in 2017.
“It's a tournament I look forward to playing every year,” Jones said.
“I don't view it as a belated (title) defence at all. Last year I had to make a few tough decisions and skipping the Open was one of them. I had a tough year on tour, so that meant not being able to defend.
“You don't get to defend a title very often, so to skip defending your national Open was a very tough decision. It was great to see Jordan win again and it's great that he’s coming back to defend. I will be doing what I can to stop him defending this year.
“Winning the Stonehaven Cup in 2015 is probably the biggest win of my career. Winning the Australian Open at your home course in front of so many family and friends was an amazing feeling and something I often reflect on.
“I'm coming back with the intent of winning again. I know the course well so I have a little advantage in that regard.”
Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt said Jones’ enthusiasm for the challenge was typical of the spirit he expected at The Australian.
“It brought the house down when Matt hung on at his home course to beat Jordan in 2015 and there was such drama when Jordan won the playoff last year – it will be special to see them both back vying for the Stonehaven Cup together,” Pitt said.
Jones’ record at the Emirates Australian Open is particularly impressive. Alongside his win, the Sydneysider also packs a runner-up finish in 2010 and two other top-10s in his resume. Other than a missed cut in 2014, he has not finished worse than 24th in seven other attempts.
The Emirates Australian Open is a flagship tournament on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia. The winner will receive a minimum of 32 Official World Golf Ranking points.
The event will be telecast all four days on Channel 7. View TV guide.
Tickets are on sale now from Ticketek at www.ticketek.com or by calling 132 849.