Curiouser and curiouser. So far, at least, there have been no sightings of girls answering to “Alice” or any small white rabbits. But the way things are going on
the PGA Tour right now, it can only be a matter of time.
What once was odd has suddenly become ordinary.
For example, Matt Jones wasn’t supposed to win the Shell
Houston Open. Not from six strokes behind an on-form
Matt Kuchar with 18 holes to go. And certainly not from two
shots back with only one hole to play. But he did, in a way the
33-year-old Australian will surely never forget.
We shouldn’t be shocked though. In any other year the
world’s 90th-ranked golfer popping up to win would at least
come as something of a mild surprise. But not in this wild
and wacky PGA Tour wraparound season.
So far in a six-month stretch, only two of the leading 15
players on the planet entering 2014 have won tournaments.
So no Tiger. No Phil. No Adam. No Henrik. No Rory. No Justin. No Graeme. And, although he has posted a string of high
finishes including a lone third at the SHO, no Sergio.
Instead, the last seven PGA Tour events have produced
an honor role of—relatively speaking—golfing dwarfs in
a Steven (Bowditch), a Matt (Every), a John (Senden), a
Patrick (Reed), a Chesson (Hadley), a Russell (Henley) and
now, another Matt.
Just as noteworthy is that, with 21 of 41 regular-season
PGA Tour events completed, the champions have hailed
from only two nations: the U.S. and Australia. Truly, golf can
be a strange game.
Cruel too. Just ask Kuchar. For three days at the GC of
Houston, the 35-year-old Florida native comprehensively
outplayed Jones. And with one regulation hole to play, that
superiority was still evident. Armed with that two-shot edge
only something goofy was going to stop Kuchar from recording a seventh PGA Tour victory.
And so it proved. With Kuchar watching from the middle
of the 18th fairway, Jones made an unlikely 46-foot putt for a
closing birdie on the toughest hole on the course. That left the
former WGC-Accenture Match Play champion needing a par
for victory, a task made effectively impossible when Kuchar
pulled his approach into the pond left of the putting surface. In
the end, he did well to get down in two for a bogey, a tie and a
Minutes later, with Jones short of the 18th green in two
after bunkering his drive, Kuchar, apparently spooked by the
thought of another visit to the water, blocked his second shot
into the sand. And then, just when you thought the putt to tie
had been the biggest blow Jones could possibly administer to
the Kuchar solar plexus, the Sydney native chipped in from
42 yards to record an even more unlikely birdie.
“When I saw the ball disappear, it’s probably the happi-
est I’ve been on the golf course,” declared Jones, who thus
claimed the last available spot in this year’s Masters, becom-
ing the 24th player who will make his Augusta debut.
Kuchar’s level of happiness is perhaps best left unrecorded.
But it’s safe to assume the approach to 18 in regulation is one
he will have trouble forgetting. For a man whose “one-plane”
swing has so improved his greens-in-regulation percentage,
winning is not something that seems to come naturally.
“One of those things,” he shrugged. “It’s smarter to bail out
and give yourself a chance [to make par]. But I was looking to
make a 4 and win the tournament. I tugged it a little too much.”
Still, one man’s misfortune inevitably benefits another.
And, quite rightly, Jones was in no mood to apologize after-
ward. He even claimed that, while walking to his ball, he told
his caddie he was going to chip in.
“When I know what I have to do, it’s easier, if that makes
sense,” he explained. “I’ve always been that way. When I
know what I have to do, I seem to be able to pull it off. Playing with my friends, if I have to make a birdie to beat them,
I somehow do it. And it was nice to be able to do just that on