Matt Jones has never seriously contended at a major until now.
The 35-year-old defied any sense of nerves to jettison himself into a two-stroke lead at the halfway point of the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Saturday and looked as relaxed as if he was playing pennant golf back in Cronulla.
Perhaps he feels that way given his brother Brett played in the event and the entire extended family is in attendance.
Whatever the reasons his bogey-free seven-under-65 in round two was managed precisely to move him to 11-under-133, the first time since Tiger Woods in 2000 the halfway lead at the PGA reached double digits.
Two clear of fellow Aussie Jason Day and three clear of Justin Rose, Jones has exalted company as he looks to be the fifth Australian to win the PGA Championship and first since Steve Elkington in 1995.
“It’s amazing to be in the lead at a major. I’ve been in the lead on a tour event but a major’s a different story,” Jones said.
“But I’m going to have fun with it and I’m pretty relaxed on the golf course. I’m sure I’ll be nervous on the first tee but playing with Jason will be great.
“I’ve never been in this situation, so I can’t say what’s going to be the hardest thing for me to do.”
While Jones’ best finish in his nine majors came last month with a T30 at the British Open at St Andrews, he has led on the US PGA tour after 36 holes on six occasions.
But he was unable to close in any of them. Since the PGA Championship moved to stroke play in 1958 the second round leader/co-leader has won 23 times in 57 events.
Jones’ lone win in the USA came last year at the Houston Open when he rallied from behind and chipped in to beat Matt Kuchar in a play-off.
He has had three top 10s this season, including two thirds.
“It’s hard to say if you ever feel a week like this coming,” Jones said.
“You’re a golfer, so you expect weeks like this. But I mean I had some good weeks this year and I’ve had bad weeks and that’s the nature of the game.
“I’m a streaky player, I know that. I’m trying to get better at that part of my game but I’m just managing my golf ball better this week than I probably have in previous years on tour and I’m putting well this week.”