Jones long odds to defend Australian Open crown


Reigning champion Matt Jones is unlikely to return to defend his Australian Open title for the second time in his career as the PGA TOUR deals with a second positive test to coronavirus.

In the wake of Nick Watney’s withdrawal from the RBC Heritage after he registered a positive result prior to the second round at Hilton Head, the PGA TOUR released a statement on Wednesday morning confirming that Cameron Champ had also returned a positive result in a pre-tournament screening at the Travelers Championship despite not displaying any symptoms.

Having only returned to play two weeks ago it highlights the fragile nature of the continuing golf calendar and the potential implications it could have on the Australasian summer.

The Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club from December 3-6 is the only confirmed date on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia schedule with Golf Australia exploring all options with regards to when the Australian Open can be played at Kingston Heath.

It looks increasingly unlikely that the Stonehaven Cup will be contested before the end of the year and that its reigning champion will be in attendance.

Preparing for this week’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut and sporting a bushranger-style beard allowed to flourish in lockdown, Jones conceded that a return to Australia is unlikely given the current travel restrictions and quarantine protocols.

“If it’s in December, I’m not coming back if I have to quarantine for two weeks. I can’t,” said Jones, who also won the Australian Open at The Australian in 2015.

“That means I’d be skipping maybe Mexico and maybe Sea Island.

“I’m not going to bring my family down, and I’m not even sure if I’d be allowed to travel down to Australia with my wife and kids.

“That really wouldn’t be an option I don’t think for me to be able to do it this year.”

Asking of the possibility of the Australian Open shifting to February towards the end of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia’s new wrap-around schedule, Jones said such a move would still make it difficult for him to fit it into his schedule.

“That’s a pretty important time of year,” said Jones, who has been based in Arizona since attending Arizona State University from 1999-2001.

“The West Coast for me is a time of year I love in America with Arizona, playing at Phoenix, Riviera, Pebble, San Diego. That would be another tough one for me to be able to come back to, but it’s something I’d have to look at and see if it’s an option.

“I didn’t get a chance to defend last time, and it was something I was looking forward to doing this time, especially at Kingston Heath.

“I’ve never played an Australian event in Melbourne. I’ve never played an Aussie Masters or an Australian Open in Melbourne.”

Currently operating within the PGA TOUR bubble and the only Aussie to make the cut in the first two tournaments back, Jones admitted that a second positive test inside a week is a warning shot to players and their caddies not to become lax in the way they observe precautions instituted by the TOUR.

“Everyone is very cautious. No one wants to be one of the players that catches it and then spreads it to other players,” said Jones, winner of the 2014 Shell Houston Open.

“We’re all out here playing for a living so missing two weeks of tournaments right now is pretty important. No one wants to have to deal with that.

“But if we’re smart and we do the right things like we’ve been directed to do and we’re not out at a bar drinking like a couple of players or caddies have done, I think we’ll all be pretty good if we just listen to what the guidelines that they’ve given us are and just be smart about everything.

“The TOUR has done an amazing job.  I think they’ve handled it very well and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”


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