Aussie Jones grabs lead at windy PGA Honda Classic

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Australian Matt Jones fired a one-under par 69 to seize a three-stroke lead after a blustery third round Saturday at the US PGA Honda Classic

Australian Matt Jones fired a one-under par 69 to seize a three-stroke lead over Americans J.B. Holmes and Aaron Wise after Saturday's blustery third round of the US PGA Honda Classic.

The 40-year-old from Sydney, who trailed Wise by six strokes at one stage, was the only player in the final six pairs to finish under par in windy conditions at PGA National.

"It was a very good round," Jones said. "It was a round of trying to make as many pars as possible and limit the mistakes.

"I couldn't win the tournament today but I wasn't going to lose it."

Jones stood on 10-under 200 after 54 holes at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, with about 10,000 spectators watching under Covid-19 safety protocols.

Wise, who led by three when the day began and six after four holes, stumbled to a five-over 75 with four back-nine bogeys plus a double bogey and bogey on the front side to share second with Holmes, who shot 67.

"It just played really, really hard," Wise said. "I honestly felt like I played well. The only thing I didn't do well was manage the wind.

"Luckily, with how I played the first two days, I'm still in it."

Taiwan's C.T. Pan, among the early finishers, shared fourth on 204 with Americans Sam Ryder and Cameron Tringale.

Jones, a two-time Australian Open champion ranked 83rd in the world, won his only US PGA triumph at the 2014 Houston Open.

"Just (need to) keep doing what I'm doing, keep giving myself birdie putts and if you don't make them leave it close," Jones said.

"Just manage the golf course and take what it gives me. Keep the ball low and keep it in the right spots to give myself a chance."

Jones, among the tour's quicker-paced players, will be in the last duo Sunday with Holmes, among the more deliberate.

"Played really good," Holmes said. "I didn't miss an iron shot on the back side. It was playing very difficult. Wasn't a lot of room for error.

"When the wind's this difficult, anything can happen. You can make a double or triple out here real quick."

Wise, a South African-born American ranked 152nd in the world, is chasing his second PGA title after the 2018 Byron Nelson after enjoying his first 36-hole PGA lead.

He birdied the par-4 second from just outside 15 feet, then sank a birdie from just inside 13 feet at the fourth to reach 14-under and quickly owned a six-stroke advantage.

But Wise endured a double-bogey disaster at the par-4 sixth, finding a cart path right off the tee, a greenside bunker with his second shot and three putted from 11 feet.

When Wise missed a putt from just inside eight feet at the par-3 seventh and made bogey, his lead was down to three.

- Staying low in the wind -

Jones, who opened with a 27-foot birdie but made bogeys at four and six, sank a 14-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th and when Wise missed a par putt from inside four feet at 10, moved within a stroke.

Jones matched Wise for the lead at 10-under by dropping his approach just inside seven feet at the par-4 14th and making the birdie putt.

"I'm happy to go low with the ball flight," Jones said. "I'm a little more conservative when the wind is up. In the wind I tend to manage to golf course differently.

"Everything was pretty good. Relied on my short game, controled my ball flight, managed my trajectory."

Wise found a bunker at the par-3 15th and made bogey to leave Jones alone at the top, completing a swing of seven strokes between them over 10 holes.

A bogey-bogey finish added to Wise's misery, lipping out off the right edge at the par-3 17th and losing his tee shot into deep grass left at the par-5 18th.

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