Date: November 24, 2014
Author: Mark Hayes @ The Australian

Jones loses his home field advantage

Logic tells you Matt Jones has to be among the favourites for this week’s Emirates Australian Open.

Fresh from an incredible playoff victory on the US PGA Tour’s Houston Open, Jones returns to play his national championship 75th in the world rankings and having played all four major championships.

But the main thing in the Sydneysider’s armory should be that he’s playing the Open on a course he’s called home for almost 20 years.

But don’t rush to your bookmaker just yet.

Jones, 34, played nine holes this morning at The Australian – the first time he’s seen Jack Nicklaus’ revised layout of a club at which he was champion in 1997.

In his coach and club pro Gary Barter’s words: “All Matt’s 20 years of knowledge just went flying out the window.”

“Every green has been reshaped, all their topography, alignment and all the bunkering has changed. All his local advantage has gone,” Barter said.

With those words ringing in his ears, Jones was eager to do some reconnaissance on a patch of soil he once knew like his own nearby backyard.

“I think a few people expect me to have a special edge here given that I ‘ve been a member here since I was 15,” Jones said.

“But I’ve played here maybe once a year for the past 15 years. It’s definitely my home track, but since Jack Nicklaus came and (remodelled) it,  there are a lot of differences.
“I’m going to go out there now and see it for the first time. I will know the lines off the tees … but to have known  the greens would have been nice.

“I’ll figure it out now – it’s all I can do.”

Jones has a happy knack of finding good results after spending time with Barter – and spent Sunday afternoon in a session with the man he’s trusted with his swing since he joined The Australian in the mid-1990s.

Given that was his first day back in Australia since last summer – and that he had another putting clinic today — it’s clear Jones means business.

“I’d say 90 per cent of the time when I spend time with Gary and he’s around for the week I play well,” Jones said.

“Obviously it doesn’t always happen, but I had him over a lot last season in America and it went well and I hope to do well this week and next year on tour with him around.”

The affable Jones admitted to a “lull” after his win in Texas that propelled him into a last-minute flight to Augusta National for his Masters debut.

“I think it was just letting down a little, which I’ve noticed happen before to a lot of other players, too.

“I didn’t think that would happen knowing the personality I have – but with two young kids (Victoria and Savannah) you probably let it go just a little more and you probably relax a little bit knowing you’ve got a two-year exemption (in the US).

“But I can’t really afford to do that now. This year’s a big year – I want to get into the top 50 of the world and stay there.

“I need to play well here, then in a couple of big tournaments early in the year to get me rolling again.

“My goal is (to play in) the WGCs and the majors, to solidify myself in the top 50 consistently.

“I expect myself to maintain a level of golf in the top 50, maybe higher. I know I have the ability to, but it’s a matter of putting it together and that’s the tough thing.

“The Presidents Cup is definitely a goal, without question and it’s a very attainable goal. I think I’m 12th right now – one good tournament I’m in the top 10 and a couple of good ones and I should be good to go.

“I’m going to have some points drop off the world rankings at stages this year because I had some good results (in 2013) with top 10s and 5s. But another good win should do it.”