Miguel Angel Jimenez Secures Engrossing Senior Open at St Andrews
Miguel Angel Jimenez held his nerve to fend off the formidable challenge of Bernhard Langer to secure a one-shot victory in an engrossing Senior Open Championship from the legendary Old Course at St Andrews.
Two years ago, the 54-year-old Spaniard held a four-stroke lead after 54 holes in this event at nearby Carnoustie, but struggled on the final day, opening the door for eventual champion Paul Broadhurst. This time, Jimenez was two ahead of Langer and Americans Kirk Triplett and Tom Pernice Jnr but looked assured as he edged further ahead of his contenders with birdies at the first, fifth, ninth and 12th under the gloomy skies of the Auld Grey Toun.
Standing on the 15th tee, the 21-time winner on the European Tour was three-ahead of defending champion Langer, playing in the group ahead, who had dropped his first shot of the day on the notoriously difficult 13th. However, there was to be a crucial swing in fortune, as the remarkably consistent German birdied the 15th, coupled with a bogey from Jimenez on the same hole minutes later, intensifying the drama as the final pairings edged back towards the famous old town.
Langer had a chance for another birdie on the fearsome Road Hole – following his rare three on Saturday – but his effort came up disappointingly short. Jimenez – who had won his first major on the over-50s circuit earlier in the year at the Regions Tradition – was left with a testing ten-footer for par on the 71st holing out brilliantly to maintain a one-shot advantage. It may have been the penultimate hole, but this felt like the winning moment.
Facing the iconic 18th, Langer could only make par on this most subtle of holes, providing Jimenez with a foundation of comfort as he two-putted on the grandest of stages to complete a victory that must rank among the most significant of a spectacular career that saw him play in four Ryder Cups. The man from Malaga had also represented Spain in ten Dunhill Cups at St Andrews.
Rounds of 68, 67, 72 and 69 established Jimenez’s winning total of 12-under, with the most impressive statistic of the week being his eight-under record on the back-nine, which had played as the considerably difficult of the two halves throughout the four days of contrasting conditions in Fife. The Old Lady provided a quintessential links test, asking different questions each round.
“It's amazing, obviously at St. Andrews, the Home of Golf, it's a place that many people want to win,” Jimenez said. “Seve played well in the Open, and so it's amazing to be here in this place with all these things, and my name is part of history.”
For Langer, who notably finished in a tie for 24th at last week’s Open Championship, it was a third runner-up finish in an event that he has won three times. 34 years ago, the World Golf Hall of Famer agonisingly lost out to Seve Ballesteros in the Open here, but there was to be no Old Course reprieve for the former Ryder Cup captain, who nonetheless produced a sterling defence and remains a major threat on the PGA Tour Champions as he approaches his 61st birthday.
“Overall, I was pleased. I putted okay. I had one bad 3-putt there where I actually thought I hit a good shot and it came up short. Yeah, that probably was it. You know, I three-putted (on 13), and if I had made one more birdie somewhere, I would have been right there,” Langer said.
“But Miguel played an awesome four days of golf, and he's a very well-deserved winner.”
Former runner-up Scott McCarron finished in a tie for third at ten-under alongside Stephen Ames and Triplett, who had been tied for the lead before bogeys at the 12th and 13th ended his challenge. 2015 champion Marco Dawson shot a bogey-free 68 to sit in sixth alongside Tom Lehman (the only man to record all four rounds under the par of 72), Asian Tour legend Thaworn Wiratchant and 58-year-old Pernice, who holds five victories on the circuit.
Five-time Open champion Tom Watson – who was instrumental in bringing this event to St Andrews – had rolled back the years spectacularly as he attempted to finally triumph in the Home of Golf and become the oldest winner in the history of this event and the senior tour. He shot 77 on Sunday but crossed the Swilcan Bridge one more time to the great acclaim of the spectators who had admirably remained close by despite the changeable weather. He had given them much to cheer during the opening three rounds, and this may have been a final goodbye to his adoring Scottish public.
“It was emotional. this is a unique setting in golf, probably the most unique. You come into the town of St. Andrews, the last hole, finish amongst all the buildings and the people hanging over the rail up there, there's no other place like it. This is a wonderful golf course,” the 68-year-old reflected.
“The crowds were wonderful to me, and I respect them. It's been a good career. I'm not calling it off right now but I'm just saying, it's toward the end of my career and it's always great to play championship golf, especially here at St. Andrews.”
Coming to the most revered venue in the game for the first time in its 32-year history, the Senior Open and St Andrews was a perfect fit. It immediately elevated the championship, drawing arguably the best field in the event’s history. Fantastic weather had greeted them during the practice days and through Thursday and Friday. Luckily, expected thunderstorms did not materialise until late on Saturday – although the stiff breeze proved a test – and the prolonged rainfall fortunately subsided as play reached its conclusion on Sunday.
There is nothing quite like a championship at the Old Course. Let's hope we're not waiting too long until the next one.
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