By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Having missed the cut last year, Matt Jones knows that local knowledge alone is not enough to challenge at the Australian Open but the Sydneysider's mastery of the wind has put him right in contention this week.
The U.S.-based PGA Tour regular shot a superb 67 in round one despite 100 kilometer-per-hour (60 miles per hour) gusts, and a 68 in calmer but still tricky conditions on Friday gave him the early clubhouse lead on seven-under.
A member of the host Australian Golf Club since he was 15, Jones grabbed four birdies in six holes before the turn to spark his second round, which gave him a 135 total he thought would still be close to the lead by the end of the day.
"I do know the golf course (but) the greens are completely different to what I grew upon here," he told reporters on Friday.
"I’d say more so the local knowledge would come with the wind and understanding how heavy it can be from certain areas. You might not feel it in some areas where I’ll know it’s going to be there.
"It was extremely difficult yesterday. The wind was one and a half, two club wind, but you've still got to get it in the hole. If there was no wind, I could have gone out and shot three over today -- that's how golf is."
The 35-year-old got his maiden U.S. PGA Tour win at the Houston Open last year and banked close to $2 million with four top 10 and seven top 25 finishes in 2015.
While Jones still flies under the radar a little in terms of profile back home compared to compatriots Jason Day, the world number two, and former world number one Adam Scott, that suits him just fine.
"Jason had one of the best years of any Australian ever on Tour," he added. "I’m just happy to be playing on the PGA Tour and keep doing what I’m doing.
"If my golf gets me more accolades back here that would be great, but it’s only going to come from victories and doing what they do week in and week out."
Claiming the Stonehaven Cup this week would not only put his name on the same trophy as many of the greatest golfers of all time, it would also secure him a crack at next year's British Open.
"Any time you have a chance to win your own country's Open would be fantastic," he said.
"But, two days to go, I can't really be thinking about that now. I'll be thinking about that if I have a chance coming down the stretch on Sunday."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)