Date: November 29, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

The caddie: Inside the ropes on a rollercoaster ride

 

Matt Jones was more nervous teeing off leading the Emirates Australian Open than he had been in the corresponding position in the US PGA Championship in August.

It’s easy to forget the Sydneysider led the year’s final major at the halfway point in an event countryman Jason Day went on to win.

But it clearly highlights the esteem in which Jones keeps the Stonehaven Cup he finally made his own after a rollercoaster ride at The Australian Golf Club today.

Caddie Shannon Wallis said Jones had informed him of his nervous predicament, but that he told him the fears were only natural.

“I said, `Mate, if you’re not nervous, there’s something wrong’ and he seemed to settle down OK,” Wallis said.

But the bagman feared his mate could implode after a similar bout of nerves on the first fairway today.

“He was just so nervous, I don’t even know how he got that second shot away,” Wallis joked of a shot caught very heavy en route to a sloppy bogey.

“It was a rough start, then we misjudged the wind on the second and took a bad club and made double.

“But he fought hard all day – and it hadn’t been hard all week , so it was a really good effort.”

That good work nearly came unravelled twice more.

On the ninth, Wallis said the tree off which his approach shot ricocheted into the water had not even been in their calculations after he pulled his drive left.

But even the calm response from the resultant triple-bogey wasn’t the turning point in the looper’s eyes.

Jones endured tree trouble right on the 12th and still found himself in the front bunker after three shots.

But a spectacular trap shot dropped into the cup – and the par from nowhere is where Wallis said the round that had threatened disaster took its first turn towards glory.

“The chip in on 12 was the key, I think. If that didn’t go in, it could have been a different story..

“He cracked it in the trees (and) his head came off a little bit, but the chip-in helped – that’s always nice.

“Walking to 13 tee he was a different person – that was the turning point, for sure.”

Wallis said Jones “never dropped his bundle” and they shared a moment only caddie and pro will ever experience on the 16th, where he was the only player on the leaderboard to make what turned into the winning birdie.

The pair eyeballed a tricky 3m putt after a superb approach and, in the end, agreed on a hunch from Wallis.

“We looked and it was left to right, but then it was straight on other side,” Wallis said.

“He said, `What do you reckon?’ and I said hit it left to right with the wind and it went in dead centre – a great moment.”

The final putt on the 18th wasn’t of the same quality.

“But it lipped in mate – and that’s all that matters right now,” Wallis beamed.

“It really means a lot to him. I don’t think people realise how much, actually.

“To be the winner of the 100th Australian Open – and it’s nice to do it at his home club, too.

“It was a fun ride – and I might just go and have a few beers to enjoy it.”