Australia’s Matt Jones stayed steady in changing weather conditions Saturday and grabbed a three-shot lead through three rounds of the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Jones is at 10-under 200 heading into the final round at PGA National after a 1-under 69 in the third round that came amid conditions where the closing holes were into the wind instead of with the wind like they were in Friday’s second round.
“I need to just keep doing what I’m doing,” Jones said after the round on Golf Network. “Hopefully just keep giving myself birdie putts and if I don’t make them, just leave it close. On these greens, you don’t want any of those comebackers. I’ve missed a few of those. Just manage the golf course and take what it gives me.”
Aaron Wise fell out of the lead and into a tie for second place with J.B. Holmes at 7 under. Wise had a commanding six-shot lead early in Saturday’s round but closed with four bogeys on the back nine, including three on his final four holes.
Both Jones and Wise took advantage of prior weather conditions. Wise shot a 6-under 64 in each of the opening two rounds but came nowhere near that Saturday. Jones tied the course record with a 9-under 61 on Saturday to move just off Wise’s pace.
Cameron Tringale, Sam Ryder and Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan were tied for fourth place at 6 under. A group of six tied for seventh place at 5 under included Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and defending champion Sungjae Im of South Korea.
Jones, whose only PGA Tour victory came in 2014, was three shots off Wise’s lead at the start of play Saturday. He had a birdie and two bogeys on the front nine before closing with birdies at Nos. 11 and 14.
“I’m happy to go low with the ball flight,” Jones said. “I’m probably more conservative when the wind is up. I’ll probably play a little safer than normal. I’m naturally a more aggressive player but in the wind, but I have a tendency to manage the golf course differently.”
Jones put his approach shot at the par-4 11th hole to 14 feet and made the birdie putt. At the par-4 14th, his approach shot was even better, finishing inside of 7 feet before he made that putt as well.
Wise opened in impressive fashion Saturday with two birdies on his first four holes to take a six-shot advantage. But it started to go astray with a double bogey at No. 6 followed by a bogey at No. 7.
After the turn, he made a bogey at Nos. 10, 15 and 17 before his tee shot at 18 found water left. He closed with his fourth birdie on the back nine and a 5-over 75.
Holmes was in the clubhouse when he moved from third to a tie for second place thanks to Wise’s collapse. He had birdies at Nos. 11, 14 and 15 before a three-putt bogey at No. 16. He finished with his second consecutive 3-under 67.
Pan had the best round of the day, a bogey-free 5-under 65 that included three birdies on the front nine and two more at Nos. 12 and 14 before closing with four consecutive pars into the teeth of the wind.
Im has quietly stayed in contention for a second consecutive Honda Classic title. He shot a 2-under 68 in the first two rounds before a 1-under 69 Saturday.
–Field Level Media