Australia’s Matt Jones stayed out of trouble Sunday and finished off his weekend of dominance with a five-shot victory in the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
After finishing both Thursday’s first round and Saturday’s third round at PGA National with the outright lead, Jones completed his second career victory, and first since the 2014 Shell Houston Open, with a 12-under-par 268 after his 2-under 68 in the final round.
The five-shot victory was the second largest winning margin on the PGA Tour this season after Bryson DeChambeau’s six-shot triumph at the U.S. Open in September.
“I’ve had some tough times between then and now,” Jones said of his seven-year gap in victories as he choked up during an interview on the NBC broadcast. “I’m pretty emotional. Seven years. I just worked hard. I had some tough times putting but worked hard with my coach in Australia and it has finally paid off.”
Brandon Hagy finished alone in second place at 7 under 273 after a 4-under 66 in the final round. Chase Seiffert (64), Brendan Steele (65), Denny McCarthy (67), Russell Henley (68) and Chinese Tiapei’s C.T. Pan (70) all finished in a tie for third place at 6 under 274. Seiffert had the low round of the day.
Defending champion Sungjae Im of South Korea finished in a five-way tie for eighth place at 5 under after closing with an even-par 70. Zach Johnson also was at 5 under following a 70 in the final round.
Aaron Wise, who was the outright leader after the second round, struggled for the second consecutive day and finished in a six-way tie for 13th place at 4 under. He opened with consecutive 6-under 64s to lead at the midway point, but had a 5-over 75 on Saturday to go along with a 3-over 73 on Sunday.
With low scores hard to come by, and the rest of the field unable to make a charge in breezy conditions, Jones showed he was undaunted by Sunday pressure. Holding a three-shot lead overnight helped calm his nerves as he recorded a birdie on two of his first three holes.
Jones’ final round did include three bogeys, including two on the back nine when the victory was well in hand, countering that with birdies on three of his final seven holes. His exclamation point came in the form of a 16-foot birdie putt at No. 16, pumping his fist after taking a five-stroke lead.
“I have a funny text that I sent someone, because I was hitting it pretty good (in practice rounds) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and I said, if someone beats me this week they have cheated,” Jones said. “I was pretty confident going into the week, which is not normal for me. So I was hitting it great on Tuesday, Wednesday, and something just clicked for me.”
Jones’ eventful weekend included a 9-under 61 on Thursday that tied to course record. He has two other top-10 finishes this season, tying for fourth place in the Oct 29-Nov. 1 Bermuda Championship and recording a tie for eighth in the Feb. 18-21 Genesis Open at Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Hagy, who was added to the field Wednesday from a pool of alternates, rebounded from a 6-over 76 on Saturday to shoot a 3-under 66 on Sunday on his 30th birthday. The round included six total birdies, including one on each of the final two holes.
“There’s a lot of tough holes out there and there’s big stakes for sure, but I’ve been working on some good stuff and it’s nice to see some of that pan out,” Hagy said. “I mean on Monday I was practicing back home in Scottsdale (Ariz.), so it was nice to be able to apply some of that right away.”
J.B. Holmes put himself in Sunday’s final twosome along with Jones after consecutive 3-under 67s on Friday and Saturday, but collapsed Sunday with a 9-over 79. He finished in a tie for 46th place at 2 over for the tournament.