PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The first two players finishing the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship had widely varying levels of success.
Matt Jones polished off a round of 69 that included six birdies while his playing partner, Kevin Chappell, struggled to an 80. Chappell had made the field for his first PLAYERS Championship when Jeff Maggert withdrew and shot even par in his first two rounds.
There are several other early starters who are putting up low numbers.
Peter Hanson, who birdied his last two holes on Friday to make the cut on the number. is making the most of his opportunity on the weekend. He has yet to make a bogey and is 6 under through14 holes – for the day and the tournament.
Angel Cabrera also turned in 32 and has played his first 15 holes in 5 under to make another big jump up the leaderboard.
After a near-90 minute delay due to rain and lightning, the second round has resumed at the Wells Fargo Championship, where Bill Haas is still in the lead but now has company in the form of Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson isn’t the only one moving up the leaderboard, however. Brian Davis, J.B. Holmes and Matt Jones are all 4 under on their rounds and within three of Haas.
On the par-5 18th, Bubba Watson managed just a par Thursday. That was about the only thing that didn’t go write for Watson.
The long-hitting left-hander made six birdies, an eagle and just two bogeys on his to a 6-under 66 that gives him a one-shot lead after the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Watson hasn’t been much of a factor his last three starts, but he was on target Thursday, hitting 15 grens in regulation and taking 28 putts.
And remember, he has a history of playing well in this even with a tie for fifth in 2007.
Meanwhile, Australian Matt Jones made a late push with birdies on each of his last two holes to tie for the lead with Watson at 6 under.
At one point, Jones made four straight birdies and he finished the day with eight. He also took just 25 putts and averaged 1.46 putts per green.
Watson and Jones lead a cluster of six players at 5 under, which includes David Duval.
Matt Jones has been in this position before. A year ago, he went into the Wyndham Championship ranked 119th in the FedExCup standings and wound up being the odd man out at No. 126.
This year, though, Jones made the field for The Barclays with ease at No. 56. But he dropped down to 70th -- which is the cutoff for next week's BMW Championship -- when he tied for 60th at Ridgewood.
The young Aussie, who got off to a solid start with a 65 on Friday at TPC Boston, is philosophical about his decision.
"It doesn't bother me at all," Jones said. "I know if I play to my abilities, it won't even come into affect. If I play well enough I won't have to worry about being the bubble boy."
Besides, he's got some other things to look forward to -- regardless of what happens at TPC Boston. Jones is getting married during the off week before the finale of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
"If I don't play well I have next week off and then I get married," Jones said. "I'm fine. It's been a long year, so if I play well this week, get into next week, then I have a chance at THE TOUR Championship."
Jones made seven birdies and a lone bogey from the left rough on the ninth hole, which was his final of the day. He hit nine fairways, 11 greens and used just 22 putts.
"It was a good round," Jones said. "I hit a couple squirrelly shots, but overall I hit it pretty well, took advantage of some holes in these conditions while we can. I made plenty of birdies. I actually putted really well. I had a lot of par putts which helped keep the round going."
Last week’s winner was Matt Kuchar. And among the early leaders today is another Matt – as in Matt Jones.
The Aussie has played a bogey-free 15 holes and is tied for the lead at 6 under with Ryan Moore, Ryan Palmer, Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Charley Hoffman and Fredrik Jacobson.
What makes Jones’ name particularly significant in that group is that he is the current bubble boy for next week’s tournament t Cog Hill aat No. 70. He started on the back nine, turned in 31 and has just made consecutive birdies at Nos. 4 and 5.
Prior to this year, Jones had only played in one event in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, missing the cut at The Barclays in 2008. He’s got five top-10s this season and a career-high $1.1 million in earnings – and now he’s staring a third straight Playoffs start smack dab in the face.
A year ago, Matt Jones entered the final week of the regular season 117th in the FedExCup standings before shooting 70-74 on the weekend at the Wyndham Championship. His final round there included a missed 8-footer on the final hole that resulted in Jones missing the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup by less than a point.
The 30-year-old Aussie won’t have any such worries this season, not after recording five top-10s in what’s been a breakout season with already a career-high $1.1 million in earnings.
This year has also been a total feast-or-famine one for Jones. He’s missed seven of 19 cuts, but in the dozen cuts he has made he’s finished in the top 25 all but four times.
That run looks like it will continue this week with Jones shooting a 66 in the opening round. Though he hit just six fairways, Jones still managed a respectable 13 greens and took only 27 putts. He also got up-and-down out of the sand twice on his way to five birdies and just one bogey. -- Brian Wacker
There’s just something about TPC Deere Run and Australians. Four years ago, John Senden won the John Deere Classic. This year, it’s Aussie Matt Jones who is high on the leaderboard at 17 under for the week and currently in fifth at 1 under through eight holes today.
Greg Chalmers is also in the top 10 at 13 under and 5 under on his final round with a few holes to play.
So why the success for Aussies in this event? Jones attributes it to the need to shape tee shots left and right, something that a lot of Australians have to do at home because of all the wind there. -- Brian Wacker
Steve Stricker, Paul Goydos and Brendan de Jonge talked to the PGA TOUR Network before the third round:
Bill Rosinski of the PGA TOUR Network on SIRIUS XM Radio speaks to Steve Stricker, Brendon de Jonge, Matt Jones, and Paul Goydos about playing TPC Deere Run aggressively in Round 3
The prediction of a Steve Stricker-Paul Goydos final group on Saturday might be a tad early. Australian Matt Jones has just reeled off his fourth birdie in a row to get to 13 under, three back of Stricker and two back of Goydos, who just bogeyed the par-4 eighth.
Jones is winless in 67 career PGA TOUR starts, but he's in the midst of a career year on the PGA TOUR. He's already racked up four top-10s -- doubling his career total -- and it appears his days of going back to q-school are long gone.
The key, in a not-so-shocking statement, is that he's putting well. Even at 170 pounds on a thin 6-foot frame, Jones is one of the longest hitters on TOUR, and his improved work with the putter has him 22nd in Putting Average and 30th in Putts per Round.
Jones is 39th in FedExCup points. A spot in the THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca Cola is not out of the question.
What went through Matt Jones’ head when he looked up and saw Paul Goydos had shot 59?
“It's out there to be had today, said Jones, who shot a 7-under 64 to sit behind Goydos. “The greens were good this morning, and they were rolling well.”
So was Jones. He hit 14 greens in regulation and took just 24 putts. Since the end of April, Jones also has four finishes inside the top 15 and a year ago he finished 15th at this tournament.
While Jones is five shots back of Goydos, he’s not too worried about it -- yet.
“There are three rounds to go and you have to keep playing well,” Jones said. “Because 12 under is one round and out here you have get to minimum of 20 under to have a good week, so it's a good start, but we've all got a lot of work to do.” -- Brian Wacker