Date: February 21, 2009
Author: PA Sport

Jones ready for Woods duel

Australian golfer Brendan Jones flew from Sydney to Arizona to keep his appointment with Tiger Woods next Wednesday. And it might not be only Woods who has to shake off some rust when the pair meet in the first round of the Accenture World Match Play Championship. While the world No.1 has not played since undergoing knee reconstruction surgery straight after his amazing US Open victory last June, world No.64 Jones&apos last event was the Australian Open over two months ago. It has not been an injury that kept him out of action, but a planned break from the game before the new Japan Tour season starts in April. “I don&apost have a great deal on the agenda,” said Jones just before Christmas. But suddenly he finds that he does – Woods&apos return to action is one of the biggest stories in sport at the moment and their match next week will be followed shot-by-shot on television. Jones has the chance to be a giant-killer in front of a worldwide audience, most of whom will never have seen him hit a golf ball, but he is simply relieved to be in the field. The 33-year-old – one thing he does share with Woods – finished last year 53rd in the rankings and after dropping 11 spots took the last place in the Match Play on Monday by one-hundredth of a point from compatriot Richard Green. The cancellation of the final round in the AT&T Classic at Pebble Beach also helped his cause because several players were robbed of the chance to overtake him. “It&aposs been touch-and-go and it&aposs great to have made it,” he said. “I enjoyed the chance to play last year and even though I was beaten in the first round (he lost two and one to Adam Scott) it was a tremendous event and I am now looking forward to getting back. “I am keen to play that&aposs for sure and I don&apost mind who I have to play.” The former Australian amateur champion, eight times a winner in Japan and third with Green in November&aposs World Cup, has been working hard on his game at Royal Canberra since discovering he was a definite starter. Woods, who waited until Thursday before declaring &aposI&aposm now ready to play again&apos, is the defending champion, but he has a bad record against Australians in the event. Peter O&aposMalley caused a first-round shock in 2002 and Nick O&aposHern knocked him out in 2005 and 2007. It is no surprise to find Woods&apos fellow players welcoming the news he is returning because they know how important he is to the sport&aposs well-being, especially at a time of global financial crisis. Anthony Kim, competing this week at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, commented: “It&aposs great for golf. I&aposm sure ticket sales will go right up.” “He&aposs a friend of mine, so I&aposll be glad to see him and I&aposm sure his golf game will be top-notch. We&aposll see if I have the chance to play against him next week.” England&aposs Paul Casey added: “I think we need him. It keeps the sponsors happy, which is a very important factor.” “He wouldn&apost be back if he wasn&apost fit and well and that could be quite ominous because he&aposll be raring to go and I think that he&aposs going to be stronger and fitter and he&aposs going to be better than he was before.” Former Masters champion Zach Johnson said: “We need him back. We want him back.” “From a competitive standpoint, as a player, I want to have the opportunity to play against the best. He knows his body, I&aposm assuming he&aposs 100 percent, so that&aposs fantastic.”