It was mid-afternoon on Saturday – around 3 pm or so – and Matt Jones had just made bogey on the par-4 6th hole. The 40-year old Aussie was 1-over on the day, and 8-under for the tournament.
Meanwhile, young Aaron Wise, who was playing in the final group with Brandon Hagy, was a hole back of Jones and had played his first five to the tune of 2-under.
At 14-under par, Wise’s three-shot overnight lead had ballooned to six.
A six-shot advantage at PGA National? Held by a player who’d just reeled off two straight 64s, and had navigated a first-five on Saturday near flawlessly? With his closest chaser being the journeyman Jones, a one-time PGA Tour winner?
It seemed almost insurmountable. It was money in the bank.
Then as so often happens to the weather in his native state of Oregon, the 24-year old’s game went from brilliant to gloomy.
In an instant.
First a double on the 6th, then a bogey on the 7th, and after two par saves, another bogey on 10. Jones, meanwhile, righted the ship and made birdies on Nos. 11 and 14, and at around 5:00 pm it was a tie ball game. Wise was 10-under as was Jones… and with a bunch of holes remaining, including the vaunted Bear Trap (Nos. 15, 16, and 17).
Did we mention the Bear Trap?
Wise would bogey two of the three on this dicey trifecta of holes, and then to add insult to injury made bogey 6 on the par-5 18th – the easiest hole on the course.
A stunned Wise signed for a 75, and astonishingly sat at 7-under par, three shots off the lead of Jones, who was 10-under after a workmanlike 1-under round of 69.
One final gut punch? Wise even played himself out of a spot in the final pairing.
That honor goes to world No. 296 J.B. Holmes, who entered the day eight strokes back of Wise, but was tied after a 3-under 67.
Describe it how you will.
I call it how the great Johnny Miller would: a total choke job.