There was a time when golfers licked their lips at the prospect of senior golf and as he prepared for his debut in the MCB Tour Championship at Constance Belle Mare Plage Colin Montgomerie admitted that he made that “mistake”.
“You turn fifty and think you’ll win lots of events,” he said. “But the standard is very high and I underestimated that.”
All of which makes the performances of Miguel Angel Jimenez on the main tour all the more extraordinary. At a time when most players notice their power wane Jimenez has done the opposite, winning 13 of his 20 European Tour titles since he turned 40.
The most recent of those wins came last week in the Hong Kong Open, less than one month shy of his 50th birthday (and qualification for the Senior Tour), which means all of the players in this week’s field have an eye on the Spaniard’s stunning feats.
Montgomerie knows exactly what ‘The Mechanic’ (as he is better known on tour) has achieved.
“All credit to him to be winning as he turns fifty on the European Tour,” said the Scot. “It’s something I tried to do – and failed – so I realise what he’s done. And it’s also tremendous that he has come back from a skiing injury earlier this year too. That’s tough at any age never mind fifty.”
The latter point prompted Steen Tinning to point out that Jimenez is “sneaky fit“. “Trust me,” said the Dane. “We all know about the red wine and the cigars, but he does his stuff in the fitness centre. He might not look fit, but he is.”
What amazes the world of golf is that the Malaga native’s early career gave no hint at what was to come. Roger Chapman remembers his entrance in the early-1990s: “He was a good player, but he was just that – another good Spanish player and there are lots of them. Not many achieve what he has done.”
So what turned a solid tour pro into a multiple winner with four Ryder Cup appearances? Perhaps the Ryder Cup holds the key because in 1997 many in the sport raised eyebrows when Seve Ballesteros made Jimenez a vice-captain.
He not only helped the team to victory, but was inspired by the experience to become an actor in the production rather than a scene shifter, something Montgomerie appreciates more than most: “I captained the team in 2010 and when we were struggling in the final day singles Miguel came up trumps for me. He was the oldest player in a team of major winners. He’s very good. Very few people improve in their 40s, but he’s one.”
The Ryder Cup remains a motivation. After victory in Hong Kong he was asked about his future on the Senior Tour and said: “If I play the way I am playing this week I will be in the Ryder Cup. I would love to be part of the team again.”
If he does gain selection he will become Europe’s oldest ever Ryder Cup performer. If not the Senior Tour players, currently practising on the Legends course ahead of Friday’s first round, have red wine ready and waiting for him.
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