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Road to The Players: Not that Matt Jones

From the Fringe

Matt Jones is no stranger to the First Coast.

Not Matt Jones the former Arkansas quarterback and Jaguars wide receiver who became pretty useless when hanging out in parking lots became more important than playing football.

I'm talking about Matt Jones, the Australian, who won the Shell Houston Open last week by making a monster putt at the 72nd hole for birdie to tie Matt Kuchar, then chipped in for birdie on the first playoff hole to not only win but get into this week's Masters.

If there's ever been a more dramatic "win-and-in" moment, I'd like to see it.

Jones also insured he'd be in The Players Championship but unlike the Masters, he's been here before. Jones missed the cut at the Stadium Course last season and in 2008 and failed to qualify in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

However, he did tie for 19th in 2011.

Jones' victory reminded me of the time he first qualified for The Players. While doing a story on first-time participants, I asked if anyone had been confusing him with Matt Jones the football player. He said it happened on occasion and joked that there was one more link ... having gone to school at Arizona State, Jones knew enough about football to be in a fantasy league. He had Matt Jones (football) on his team the year before.

"He didn't do much for me," said Matt Jones (golf).

(An aside: a member of the media, when taking note of Jones' signing bonus with the Jaguars, quipped, "that'll buy a lot of bait.")

Jones also is the fourth Australian to win on the Tour this season -- and none of them are named Adam Scott, who defends his title in the Masters this week. Jones is one of 24 first-time players at Augusta and will be one of a large contingent of young guns at The Players next month.

At this point, with players such as Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Matt Every having won on the Tour, don't discount anything.

The Road to The Players continues ...

Last week: Jones birdied his last two holes, the last of regulation and the playoff hole, to beat Kuchar.

High area finishers: Kuchar's runner-up.

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Jones at the Players: He has made 1-of-3 cuts but in 2011 shot 69-68 on the weekend to tie for 19th.

Defending Players champion: Tiger Woods did not play because of a back injury.

Players trivia: True or false -- The seven players who have shared second place in the last two Players Championships represent the only time in tournament history that multiple players have tied for runner-up in two consecutive seasons.

This week: The Masters.

Notable: The average age of Masters winners is 32.66 years. The average age of first-time Masters winners is 31.53 years.

Days until The Players first round: 29.

Tour events until The Players: Four.

Trivia answer: False. Two players in each of the 1981 and 1982 tournaments tied for second. 

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