With the wind blowing steadily at 20-30mph and gusts up to 40mph at PGA West, Matt Jones fired a solid four-under 68 at the Stadium course (the “harder” of the two venues) in the second round of Q-school on Thursday. While there’s still a long way to go, he’s tied for second with a 36-hole total of nine-under — not a bad start.
“It must have been all that preparation, huh?” I joked after Jones signed his scorecard and stopped to chat with reporters.
Jones, laughing, said, “It’s just been good putting this week. I’ve struck it okay, I’ve just managed my golf game nicely, tried to keep it out of trouble, and I’ve made some putts and got up‑and‑down.”
The laid back Aussie arrived on Monday — a few days later than the majority of the field — and played nine holes at Stadium and nine holes at Nicklaus Tournament.
“I’m taking it very easy,” said Jones after he had finished practicing Tuesday. “I went back to Australia and played the Australian Open (three weeks ago) and didn’t really touch a club until yesterday. So I had a bit of a break and I’m trying to get ready now.”
“I just finished practice, and that’s it, I’m ready,” he said. “This is a marathon, not a race, this week. You don’t want to wear yourself out.”
On Tuesday afternoon at the driving range at PGA West, Jones, who had full status on the PGA Tour this past two seasons, wasn’t too concerned with the thought of grinding through six rounds at Q-school. The 31-year-old Australian struggled this season, missing 15 cuts in 25 starts. After the Players Championship in May, he only saw weekend play twice.
Thanks to five top-25 finishes early in the year, Jones ranked 133rd on the 2011 money list, giving him conditional status and a safety net if things don’t go well this week. In that case, he won’t be able to plan his schedule or get into some of the events he may want to play, but he estimates he’ll still get around 20 starts next year.
He struggled with his game and admits he probably got too caught up with trying to fix his swing instead of focusing on scoring, but this week he’s been able to forget about it and just play golf.
Asked if his relaxed attitude coming into the week has helped, Jones said, “Yes, for two days. I think it’s helping that I can go out there and be a little free.”
As for dealing with the blustery conditions? No problem for Jones, who grew up in Australia playing in strong winds. In fact, he enjoys it. (Crazy, I know!)
“The harder the wind, the better, because it takes out a lot of expectations you have on your swing,” he said. “You try and play as smart as you can and just make par or better, so I’ve found that the harder the better more often than not suits me.”