Oldest European Tour champion, sublime US Masters performance, sparkling senior tour debut… Miguel Ángel Jiménez, now arguably the third member of a global trio of Málaga favourite sons (together with Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas), just keeps dazzling us. So how does the “world’s most interesting golfer” do it? “If you are 50 it doesn’t mean that you cannot play well. I’m still moving. I’m still flexible.” Cue to… his endearingly particular stretching and warm-up routine, captured for posterity on YouTube.
These are the salient facts…
• He was fourth in the 2014 US Masters at 50 years of age (Jimenez became eligible for the “round-belly” ranks on 5 January), the second-best performance by a player in his fifties at Augusta after Sam Snead (joint third in 1963).
• He carded the best round of the tournament, a six-under 66, in the third round to start the final day just two strokes off the lead. It matched the lowest score for a senior golfer at Augusta National: Ben Hogan was 54 when he carded 66 during the third round of the 1967 tournament, and Fred Couples matched it at 50 years during the opening round in 2010.
• One week later he was a winner on his Champions Tour debut, in the Greater Gwinnett Championship, only the third player to achieve that feat leading wire-to-wire (the second was in 1999).
• Totalling 14-under over the 54 holes, he carded 15 birdies, one eagle, and just one bogey and one double bogey (on the third and fourth holes, respectively, in the second round): i.e. covering his last 32 holes without recording a single over-par score.
• He became the 18th player in the history of the US seniors tour to win on his first start, a stellar list that includes Arnold Palmer (1980), Gary Player (1985) and Jack Nicklaus (1990).
• He is just the second golfer from Spain to win on the Champions Tour: José María Cañizares took nine play-off holes to secure the 2001 Toshiba Classic title.
• He became the first player to win a European Tour and Champions Tour event in the same season.
• Thirteen of his 20 European Tour victories have come after he turned 40. When Jiménez was victorious in the Hong Kong Open in December 2013, he extended his record (set in the same event the previous year) as the oldest winner on the European Tour.
So where to next? Jiménez has a one-year exemption for the Champions Tour but he is reluctant to make a firm commitment. “To me it’s not about money,” he said after his victory in Georgia. “It’s about some different goals to make me feel proud of myself. To me I would feel nice to play on the Ryder Cup once more.”
If Jiménez does qualify to play in the Ryder Cup on points, or if Paul McGinley makes him a captain’s pick in September, he will become the oldest member of the European side in the history of the event. Ted Ray was 50 years, two months and five days old at the inaugural contest in 1927. The Spaniard has played in the Ryder Cup four times: twice on the winning side and twice among the losers. His record is mediocre (4-8-3) and he is keen to improve it.
Jiménez shot a blemish-free opening 65 (seven-under) to lead by three strokes on his Champions Tour debut. “Very good start,” he said later. “Now it’s time for a nice, warm shower, a nice fat cigar and a glass of Rioja… I’m desperate to find one of my cigars and have a glass of wine.” Bernhard Langer had set the previous tournament record with a 66 while winning the 2013 inaugural championship.
Also sharing second place was 2013 player of the year Kenny Perry, who – when asked about Jiménez at the post-round press conference – said, “”He’s amazing. He’s fun to watch. He’s a great player.”
“We need guys like that out here. I mean, he’s a huge fan favourite. He brings a lot of flair and class to golf and he just has a good time.”
During the conference, Perry noticed the Spaniard trying to sneak through the interview room and called out, “Hope to see you tomorrow. Don’t beat us too bad, okay?” Jiménez replied something about wine and cigars, prompting Perry to lament, “That guy has too much fun.”
Jiménez’s playing partners in the last round of the Greater Gwinnett were two former US Masters champions who also had excellent results at Augusta this year: Fred Couples (the Champion Tour’s most popular attraction – at least until now!) and Bernhard Langer (its best current player). The American finished five shots behind the winner, and the German was second, two strokes back.
“I showed my game is in very good shape,” said Jiménez. “I’m very happy with my age and the way I’m doing things. The last 15 years have been the best years of my career. It’s nice – I’ve got no complaints with being 50.”
The week before at Augusta he was just as upbeat, in spite of the disappointment of not winning his first major. “The main thing is enjoy yourself, enjoy what you are doing and smile. Not enough people smile on the golf course. I love what I’m doing, and I hope I’m still in the same conditions for another 25 (years). I’m not going to get bored of myself.”
The next time Jiménez is due to tee up is the Spanish Open at PGA Catalunya in Girona from 15 to 18 May.
In the meantime, he will be marrying his Austrian fiancé, Susanne Styblo, on 3 May in Vienna; and he plans to make his European Senior Tour debut in the Senior British Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl in July.
Original post reproduced with permission from ozinspain.com
A pronounced sense of optimism prevailed at the 16th edition of the International Golf Travel Market, held on Spain’s Costa Daurada in November.
In his keynote address to the IGTM – considered the premier global event for golf tourism – Peter Walton, chief executive of the IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) presented positive findings from his organisation’s “Global Golf Tourism Report 2013”, highlighting a 9.3 per cent growth in global golf tour operator sales in 2012 compared with 2011.
“With our report showing a steady, healthy growth of the sector, I believe we can all look forward to a third consecutive year of golf tourism growth in 2014 – an optimistic forecast I am confident will be reflected in next year’s global golf tourism survey,” he said.
According to research presented at the 2013 IGTM, held at the PortAventura Convention Centre, Spanish golf tourism is a €340 million industry. Noting that Spain is the number one travel destination for visitors from the UK, France, Germany and Scandinavia, the study also highlighted the value of European golf tourism at €1.55 billion a year.
Spain’s premier website for travelling golfers is now officially an “adult”. Founded in 1995 in the Costa del Sol town of Fuengirola, when the internet was a long way off from becoming the phenomenon it is today, GolfinSpain reached its legal age in 2013. Over the past 18 years the portal has become an online pacesetter (leader in traffic for “golf in Spain” at an international level) and a reference point for the Spanish golf tour operator market.
It would have been a shock to learn otherwise but Spain has been suffering something of a battering in recent years on various well-documented fronts. On this occasion, however, no unpleasant surprises: according to a new study of European golfers, the country maintains its supremacy as the most popular travel destination for visitors from the UK, France, Germany and Scandinavia.
More than 28 per cent of the respondents had played golf in Spain over the previous 12 months, citing such favourable key contributing factors as the standard and range of the country’s golf courses, consistent levels of high quality accommodation and the favourable year-round climate.
The findings were part of a new research document entitled “European Spotlight on Golf Tourism to Spain”, commissioned by Reed Travel Exhibitions, organisers of IGTM (which will be held from 11 to 14 November at Costa Daurada in Cataluña) and produced by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc.
Second in popularity behind Spain was Portugal (17 per cent), followed by Great Britain & Ireland (16.1 per cent), Turkey (7.5 per cent), France (7.1 per cent) and United States (6.9 per cent).
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Barely five months ago, Miguel Ángel Jiménez was laid up in a hospital bed recovering from an operation to his tibia, which he had broken in a skiing accident in Sierra Nevada. Now, in just his second tournament appearance since putting the crutches aside (he missed the cut in the Spanish Open in El Saler in April), the European Tour’s oldest winner produced a remarkable performance to close birdie-eagle at the daunting Wentworth course and finish joint fourth (with overnight leader Alejandro Cañizares) in the flagship BMW PGA Championship.
While the men’s game has, in many ways, become tediously predictable in recent seasons, the Ladies European Tour offers a marked contrast: blossoming new talent, exotic horizons and a sparkle of sensuality… all with a rich Spanish flavour.
In 2012 Carlota Ciganda from Navarra became the first Ladies European Tour player since the irrepressible Laura Davies 27 years before to secure the LET Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season.
Last week, Lydia Ko, the world’s number one ranked amateur, won her third event as a professional, at 15 years, eight months and 17 days becoming the youngest LET champion, the first home winner of the New Zealand Open and the third amateur to win an LET title.
In between, Belén Mozo, who features on the promotional poster for this week’s Australian Open in Canberra, posed nude for ESPN Magazine.
Original post reproduced with permission from ozinspain.com