Matt Jones has won the Honda Classic and Justin Harding the Kenya Open. Steve Rawlings looks back at their impressive victories here...
"I was more than happy to oppose both third round leaders so I can’t have any regrets but I was wrong on both accounts. Harding and Jones converted brilliantly."
The Honda Classic promised to deliver yet another thrilling Florida finish but in the end all we got was a quite brilliant but facile cakewalk for the pre-event 110.0109/1 shot, Matt Jones, who hit a high of 140.0139/1 before the off.
After a phenomenal nine-under-par 61 on Thursday, Jones was trading at around 5.04/1 on Friday morning but he lost his way badly early on in round two.
Playing the back-nine first, he looked destined to skulk away quietly after playing his first seven holes in three-over-par but having drifted back out to above 20.019/1, he made an eagle at the 18th to turn his day around and his level par 70, saw him trail the halfway leader, Aaron Wise, by three.
Wise extended his lead to six strokes after he'd birdied two of his first four holes on Saturday and he was matched at a low of 1.758/11 but he hit the skids after that and Jones went into yesterday's fourth and final round leading by three.
Another fast start by Wise, saw Jones' lead cut back to one but just as it looked like getting interesting, Wise handed the initiative back to the experienced Aussie with a four-putt triple-bogey seven at the par four 11th before he again imploded on the back-nine, eventually finishing tied for 13th!
Brendon Hagy, who only got into the event on Wednesday when Kramer Hickok withdrew, celebrated his 30th birthday with a four-under-par final round 66 which saw him post a score that momentarily looked like it may even be enough.
Hagy hit a low of 10.519/2 when Jones three-putted the 11th but the 40-year-old Aussie got back on track brilliantly with back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 before eventually going on to win by five.
It was an incredible performance by Jones and victory was well and truly deserved but Hagy finished solo second and that's not a bad way to celebrate your 30th!
Matt Jones: +14.3 strokes gained tee-to-green this week, the most for a player over four rounds at The Honda Classic since tracking began 15 years ago.? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) March 21, 2021
Over at the Kenya Open, pre-event 60.059/1 chance, Justin Harding, who was matched at a high of 75.074/1 before the off, beat the pre-tournament 24.023/1 favourite, Kurt Kitayama by two strokes on a day of surprisingly little drama.
Katayama was matched at a low of 2.226/5 when he got to within one with an eagle at the par five sixth but Harding followed back-to-back birdies at six and seven with an eagle two at the drivable ninth to extend his lead to four and although Kitayama halved the deficit with another eagle, this time at the par five 12th, Harding never really looked like losing.
He now has course form figures reading 18-2-1 and he's well-fancied to win there again this week at the Kenya Savannah Classic, which starts tomorrow!
If you wondering whether @JustinHarding60 can go back to back In Kenya?? Richard Kaufman (@KaufmanRichard) March 21, 2021
When he was on the charge in 2018, he won 4 times in 6 events - the 1st two back to back.
And when he won in Qatar, he finished 2nd at Karen @KenyaOpenGolf the following week.
After a very decent week the week before, with two pre-event picks trading nice and short, last week was poor.
As detailed in the In-Play Blog, I backed Wise at halfway in Florida and Kitayama in Kenya and although both traded at much lower prices than I took, I didn't lay anything back on either and both results were bad.
I was more than happy to oppose both third round leaders so I can't have any regrets but I was wrong on both accounts. Harding and Jones converted brilliantly.
Texas form shows up in Florida
Matt Jones' only previous PGA Tour victory was the Houston Open at what's now called the Golf Club of Houston and that's a course that correlates nicely with the PGA National - last week's Honda Classic venue.
Jones is the third player to win at both courses and had Ian Poulter converted a three-stroke lead at the Honda in 2015, he'd have joined Jones, Adam Scott and Russell Henley to make it four.
Stuart Appleby finished second at both venues and the 2015 Houston Open winner, J.B Holmes, was tied for second with a round to go yesterday so that's another angle in to look at in future.
I'm going to cut this week's debrief a bit shorter than usual as we've got plenty to look forward to this week.
As already stated, the brand-new Kenya Savannah Classic starts tomorrow - read my preview here - the WGC Match Play begins on Wednesday and the Corales Puntacana R&C Championship kicks off on Thursday.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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