Sports / Golf

Jimenez as consistent as one of his fine cigars

By Reuters in Augusta, Georgia (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-14 07:14

Jimenez as consistent as one of his fine cigars

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez thanks his caddie, Clifford Botha, after the third round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday. Mike Segar / Reuters

Just six days from making his debut on the Champions Tour for players over 50, charismatic Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez is best known for his love of fine cigars and Rioja wine ... and his quirky warm-up routine.

Yet the pony-tailed 50-year-old from Malaga has produced some of the best golf of his career in recent months and on Saturday at the Masters he fired the lowest score of the tournament to surge into contention.

Jimenez, who bettered his own record as the European Tour's oldest winner at the Hong Kong Open in December, piled up seven birdies and a lone bogey en route to a sparkling six-under-par 66 in the third round at Augusta National.

A winner of 20 titles on the European Tour since he turned professional in 1982, Jimenez has yet to land his first major but remarkably he would surpass Jack Nicklaus as the oldest Masters champion with a breakthrough victory here.

"If you are 50, it doesn't mean you can't play well," Jimenez said with a grin after posting a three-under total of 213. "I'm still moving. I'm still flexible.

"I hit the ball longer than ever. I am not a long hitter necessarily, just a medium hitter. But I still play my irons and when I want to play a fade or draw, high or low, it still happens."

Asked whether he felt better equipped to win a major in the twilight of his already impressive career, Jimenez said: "Majors are about patience ... and today I was very patient.

"I just commit to every hole, shot by shot. That's the secret to playing this golf course. I have plenty of victories in my career and having a major would be amazing.

"That would be the flower on top. If I can play golf and control the ball, I have my chances."

Jimenez, whose best major finish was a tie for second at the 2000 US Open, has recorded three top-10s in 14 Masters starts and has enjoyed a career-long love affair with Augusta National.

"It is a beautiful place, a beautiful golf course, always manicured and I feel great here," he said.

"It doesn't matter how you play; you feel good because everything is prepared for us the way it is.

"You need to hit good here and you need to be patient, and you need to be into your own zone."

The Spaniard's hilariously unique warm-up routine, where he spins around a few clubs and performs an occasional light stretch while puffing on his trademark cigar, has become hugely popular on YouTube.

When asked about it, Jimenez agreed that fans at Augusta National this week have relished watching that routine on the practice range - perhaps even more than his superb golf out on the course.

"Sometimes I am looking at myself on video and I am laughing as well," said Jimenez who will compete in next week's Champions Tour event, the April 18-20 Greater Gwinnett Championship, in Duluth, Georgia. "But the main thing is I never get injured.

"That is a little funny what you see there, but it helps to move the joints. What you do early in the morning, the proper exercise, is what people cannot see.

"At 50, it is difficult to be here (on tour). You need to be flexible and you need to be elastic and strong to be here."

Whatever the outcome of the final round, Jimenez intends to make the most of the whole Masters experience.

"The main thing is enjoy yourself, enjoy what you're doing, to not get injured, and to smile.

"You can't forget to smile on the golf course," he said, with another broad grin.


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