Matt Jones, ranked 90th on the World Ranking, rolled in a 46-foot putt on the last hole and wound up in a playoff at the Shell Houston Open. He then made a 42-yard chip on the first extra hole for his first PGA Tour win and a spot in this week’s Masters.
He’s the fourth Australian winner on Tour this year (third in the last four weeks) and continues a trend of journeymen coming back to defeat the best players in the world in the final round. Seven of last eight PGA Tour winners were ranked 90th or higher when they won. And they weren’t all beating fellow grinders. First Russell Henley beat Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic, then Matt Every toppled Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley at Bay Hill, and now Jones stunned Kuchar. What’s next? Thorbjorn Olesen edging Phil Mickelson at Augusta? Don’t laugh. Stranger things have happened.
World Ranking of PGA Tour winners since the Florida Swing
|90||Matt Jones||Shell Houston Open||Matt Kuchar|
|339||Steven Bowditch||Valero Texas Open||Will MacKenzie, Daniel Summerhays|
|94||Matt Every||Arnold Palmer Invitational||Keegan Bradley|
|123||John Senden||Valspar Championship||Kevin Na|
|92||Chesson Hadley||Puerto Rico Open||Danny Lee|
|44||Patrick Reed||WGC-Cadillac Championship||Jamie Donaldson, Bubba Watson|
|110||Russell Henley||Honda Classic||Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox|
Jones has been grinding his way on tour for seven years. He was 32nd on the FedEx Cup standings a year ago thanks to a runner-up finish at the Greenbrier Classic. His breakout win was a long time coming.
Matt Jones PGA Tour record
|Year||Starts||Top-10s||Top-25s||Cuts made||Fedex Rank||Money rank||Earnings|
Jones managed to win Sunday despite hitting just five fairways, although he did manage to find 15 greens in regulation. For the week he was second in the field in GIR with 58. He also led the field in strokes gained-putting and only missed one putt from less than 10 feet. Like many PGA Tour winners, he improved dramatically in the stats in which he had been having the most trouble.
Matt Jones PGA Tour stats at Houston and entering the week
|GIR percentage||Strokes gained/putting||Putting from less than 10 feet|
|Houston||80.56% (2)||2.528 (1)||93.39% (2)|
|65.64% (106)||-.096 (107)||84.56% (161)|
Jones also led the field in par-3 scoring at 2.69. He was the first player to win while leading the field in scoring on the one-shot holes since Harris English at the Mayakoba Classic. Like English, Jones will be making his first Masters appearance this week. The Aussie is the 24th first-timer to qualify for Augusta National (a tournament-record, discounting, of course, the inaugural event in 1934). He’s the sixth player to earn his Masters berth by virtue of winning on Tour this season.
2013-14 Tour winners, whose victory got them into the Masters
|Player||2013-14 win||Previous majors|
|Steven Bowditch||Valero Texas Open||1|
|Matt Every||Arnold Palmer Invitational||3|
|Matt Jones||Shell Houston Open||3|
|Chris Kirk||McGladrey Classic||4|
|Kevin Stadler||WM Phoenix Open||6|
|Jimmy Walker||Frys.Com Open||6|
Does winning the week before the Masters improve your chances of winning at Augusta? It’s not likely. Only four Masters champs won the week before the Masters, and in the last five years only Anthony Kim in 2010 finished in the top-10 at the Masters.
Masters winners who won the week prior to the Masters
|2006||Phil Mickelson||Bell South Classic|
|1988||Sandy Lyle||Kmart Greater Greensboro Open|
|1959||Art Wall||Azalea Open|
|1939||Ralph Guldahl||Greater Greensboro Open|
How prior-week winners fared at the Masters: 2009-2013
|2013||Martin Laird||Missed cut|
As for Kuchar, does losing the Shell Houston Open impact his Masters odds? The runner-up the week before the Masters hasn’t always been invited to Augusta, but when he does play his success is a mixed bag. Of seven players, five made the cut and two had top-10 finishes. Two players missed the cut.
How the prior week runner-up fared at the Masters: 2004-2013
|2013||Rory McIlroy||Valero Texas Open||T-25|
|2008||Geoff Ogilvy||Shell Houston Open||T-39|
|2007||Stuart Appleby||Shell Houston Open||T-7|
|2006||Zach Johnson||Bell South Classic||T-32|
|2006||Jose Maria Olazabal||Bell South Classic||T-3|
|2005||Rich Beem||Bell South Classic||MC|
|2005||Jose Maria Olazabal||Bell South Classic||MC|