Honda Classic 2021: Matt Jones Cards Record-Tying 61 in Opening Round

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2021

Matt Jones of Australia hits from the 18th tee during the first round of the Honda Classic golf tournament, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Jones tied the course record at PGA National with a 9-under 61. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

Matt Jones stormed out to shoot a 61 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Honda Classic.

The Australian tied a tournament record with his first-round performance and sits at nine under par, good enough for a three-stroke lead over Aaron Wise and Russell Henley in second place.

Even without any top-10 players in the field, big names like Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Lee Westwood are in attendance at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. These stars and more will hope to climb the leaderboard with a $7 million purse on the line.


Round 1 Leaderboard

1. Matt Jones (-9)

T2. Aaron Wise (-6)

T2. Russell Henley (-6)

T4. Scott Harrington (-4)

T4. Kevin Chappell (-4)

T4. Cameron Davis (-4)

T4. Steve Stricker (-4)

T8. Cameron Tringale (-3)

T8. Shane Lowry (-3)

T8. Zach Johnson (-3)

T8. C.T. Pan (-3)

T8. Chase Seiffert (-3)

T8. Will Gordon (-3) 

Full leaderboard and stats available at PGATour.com.


In a field full of talent, it was the 40-year-old Jones who came through with a surprisingly dominant opening round:


✔️ Tied the tournament-low round (61) ✔️ Career low round on TOUR ✔️ On pace for new career-best SG: Tee-to-Green performance in a round on TOUR (+7.16) Matt Jones turned it up a notch in Round 1 @TheHondaClassic. https://t.co/ajE1aKkxtv


Matt Jones’ previous five rounds at PGA National (Champion): +10. Today @TheHondaClassic: -9 and the clubhouse lead. 👏 https://t.co/AOVIhAxsER

"It was one of the best rounds I've seen in my life," Adam Hadwin (two over) said after playing alongside Jones, per Ben Everill of PGATour.com.

Grayson Murray @GraysonMurray

i don’t know what course Matt Jones was playing today but i definetly was playing a different one. what a round

PGA TOUR Communications @PGATOURComms

“Could be the round of the year.” ⁦@WestwoodLee⁩ shares his thoughts on the 61 ⁦@mattjonesgolf⁩ posted earlier in R1 at ⁦@TheHondaClassic⁩ https://t.co/mBvgTuWXy2

Jones had nine birdies with zero bogeys in the round, averaging 319.3 yards off the tee while gaining 2.631 strokes with his putting. It was a nearly flawless all-around effort and put him in great position to win his second career PGA tournament and first since the 2014 Shell Houston Open.

"I play golf for a living—I mean, I should be able to shoot a good golf score occasionally," Jones said after the round.

Wise and Henley also put up low numbers, although they took different paths to get there.

While Wise crushed the ball off the tee on his way to eight birdies, accuracy was an issue as the Oregon product logged two bogeys. Henley had a smoother approach and was excellent on the green on his way to five birdies and an eagle on the 18th hole.

Steve Stricker then put himself in contention during the late session with some aggressive shots on the back nine:


3 birdies in his last 4 holes. 🐦 @SteveStricker is in the mix at -4. #QuickHits https://t.co/1X45oh9r0m

Chase Koepka was a story in the early going of Round 1 as his brother, Brooks, cheered along:

Brooks Koepka @BKoepka

💪🔥 let’s gooooo @ChaseKoepka https://t.co/6vDjRHRLnN

The 27-year-old slowed down from his hot start but still ended up in good position at one under. The younger Koepka received a sponsorship exemption to qualify for this event.

Several top players didn't find themselves on the leaderboard but still had positive moments while trying to get on the right track.


🐦 @RickieFowler bounces back with a chip-in. #QuickHits https://t.co/Vk83xmnYf4


Missed fairway Over the trees Into the grandstands Free drop Chip on Save par What a ride for @PhilMickelson. https://t.co/qcPyuSkyQ5

Rickie Fowler sits in a tie for 43rd place after shooting 70, while Phil Mickelson is tied for 63rd after his 71.

Last year's winner, Sungjae Im, shot 68 on Thursday to tie for 15th.

Bo Hoag (one over) didn't have the best round but might have produced the top shot of the day with his eagle on No. 13:


113 yards ➡️ in. 🕳 Hole-out eagle for @BoHoag. 🦅 #QuickHits https://t.co/lkVTp28KHA

Everyone is chasing Jones, but there are 54 holes remaining for the contenders in Florida.

The second round will kick off Friday at 7:25 a.m. ET, with players trying to keep up with what could be a low cut line.