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Jones eyes another Australian Open title on familiar turf

“I started my golf in Liverpool and then I came over here in 1995 and played Appleby Shield and senior pennants here. It gives me a little bit of an advantage when I come back here, and some good memories.”

Jones found form in the second half of the year on the US Tour with a fourth at the Barbasol Championship, his best performance along with a top-10 at the Greenbrier and top-20 in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.

Matt Jones during the Australian Open Pro-am at The Australian on Wednesday.

Matt Jones during the Australian Open Pro-am at The Australian on Wednesday.Credit:Getty Images

He knows what it takes to win at The Australian, as the course is known locally, where ball-striking and a good short game are crucial.

Jones shot an eight under 276 to win the 2015 Australian Open, beating Scott and Jordan Spieth, and was two shots better at 10 under when he lost by a shot to Cameron Davis in 2017. He had another runner-up finish at The Lakes in 2010.

“The course is a bit different now [from when Jones was a junior], Jack [Nicklaus] made some changes to the green complexes and bunkers. It still plays pretty similar,” he said.

“I have been looking forward it. I had a nine-day break from golf leading into it and I’m feeling sweet.”

About 10 under should be enough to win as the players wrestle with not only the course but also a smoky haze that has blanketed Sydney for a week. Many have complained of stinging eyes in the practice rounds but a sea breeze should lead to cleaner air on the weekend.

The open has drawn the strongest field this century, with several members of the International Presidents Cup team and, for the first time, Ryder Cup stars Garcia and Casey.

Garcia has spent the week in Sydney and had a good look at the course last Friday and in the pro-am on Wednesday.

Sergio Garcia is ready for his first Australian Open.

Sergio Garcia is ready for his first Australian Open.Credit:Getty Images

“I love the type of golf course that it is. I’ve always liked golf courses with small greens, that’s why Valderrama [in Spain] is my favourite golf course in the world,” the US Masters champion said.

“So I think it’s a really solid golf course, the kind of golf course that if the conditions are benign you can score, because it’s not terribly long, but if you get a little bit of wind, which usually you do here, those small greens then become very small targets.

“You have to be extremely precise to be able to hit them and have birdie chances and then, if you start missing greens, then you can have some tricky chips.”

Garcia is well aware of the previous winners of the tournament, greats of the game like Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Peter Thomson and Greg Norman.

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“The names, I haven’t looked at all of them, but the names are very, very impressive. I know most of them. It just shows you the quality of this tournament,” he said.

“Yes, it would be nice [to win]. It’s a shame that I haven’t played this open before. It’s my debut as almost a 40-year-old.

“It kind of sounds a little bit funny, but I’m excited to play well and give it a good run.’’

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