Jones, who has to date not enjoyed a good record in this event having missed three of four cuts and finished 40th in the other start, took advantage of his ongoing improvement to add a second consecutive 65 to set up an opportunity to win his first PGA Tour event.
Jones played collegiate golf at the University of Arizona and has made slow but steady progress in the professional ranks culminating in his best ever season in 2013 when he earned more than US$1.7 million.
Jones has not won on either the Web.Com or PGA Tours but has been runner-up on several occasions including when second at the Greenbrier Classic last year.
Watson has played well already this season and his overall record in this event is good so he is likely to be a big factor over the weekend.
Jones' fellow Australian Greg Chalmers, another chasing his first PGA Tour victory, is two shots behind in a share of 3rd position with Harris English while Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, Pat Perez and Kevin Stadler share 5th place another shot back.
Aaron Baddeley is 27th, Steve Bowditch 48th and Geoff Ogilvy 62nd are the other Australians to make the cut.