Jimenez Celebrates Record 707th European Tour Start With Magical Round
THE remarkable Miguel Angel Jimenez celebrated a record-breaking 707th appearance on the European Tour with an opening round of 64 at the Hero Open at the Forest of Arden.
As he made his way up the 18th the players who had finished their rounds applauded him all the way to the green. It was a very, very special moment. And Jimenez loved every second of it. It was a flawless round of golf, comprising 10 pars and eight birdies, and it left him just two off the lead. Astonishing.
Afterwards he said: “It’s been a wonderful day. A beautiful summer day, eight under par, and especially special with all my fellow players applauding me. I love doing this. I don’t remember any bad moments."
The 56-year-old Spaniard broke the long-standing record of Sam Torrance. And via video link, Torrance raised a glass of Rioja to the man who had just broken his record. “I have been very proud to hold that record but I couldn’t give it to anybody better,” said Torrance. By coincidence, both men also won 21 times on the European Tour, and Jimenez clearly believes he still has the game to add to that total. He is already the oldest winner in tour history. And six years after winning the Open de España, Jimenez led at the halfway mark of the Austrian Open earlier this month. And there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that he believes he can win again on the European Tour.
Jimenez loves playing golf and is one of the most popular players in the game. A large cigar is never far from his mouth and he makes no secret of his love for Rioja and fast cars.
Unsurprisingly, the tributes poured in.
Jack Nicklaus said: “You have played in how many events? Wow! That is an amazing achievement. To be able to still go out there and compete at this level is incredible. How has your body stood up to it?”
Jon Rahm: “You are the pride of Spain, a golfer we all look up to and a great example to us all.”
Rory McIlroy: “Miguel, 707 appearances is incredible. It shows the level of consistency you have achieved. Be sure to enjoy a glass of Rioja later.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “Congratulations Miguel. What a ridiculously amazing achievement. You have been going a while and are still impressing us all. You have brought a huge amount of fun to the tour and are a massive inspiration to us all.”
Henrik Stenson: "Well done on a fantastic achievement. I remember being on the practice green in Germany some years ago and you walked on with a cigar in your mouth. You watched me hole one 15-foot putt, then another and a third, and you removed the cigar from your mouth and said, ‘You are a machine.’ No Miguel, you are a machine and if the machine ever breaks down you just call the mechanic and fix it yourself. Let’s aim for 1,000."
Ian Poulter: “Miguel Angel Jimenez. What a man. I am opening a bottle of wine just for you, and I am going to smoke a cigar just for you."
“He’s an icon,” said Eddie Pepperell. “And not just of the European Tour. He’s an icon for golf. Of that generation of players, he is probably in the top-five globally in terms of popularity. To have that just shows how charismatic he is. I’ve played with him a few times, and he is always very friendly. How can you not love his outlook? I have nothing but admiration for him.”
Jimenez made four Ryder Cup appearances between 1999 and 2010 and has won nine times, including two majors, on the PGA Tour Champions in the U.S. since turning 50. He also holds the record for the most holes in one on the European Tour with 10.
You get the impression that there are times when he has to pinch himself just to ensure that he isn’t dreaming. He said: “When you start, you never know where you are going to finish. But with the years going by, I am setting records. I’ve been playing for 32 years now alongside so many great players. Seve Ballesteros. Jack Nicklaus. Gary Player. Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson. And now with the new ones on the way up. I’ve had a beautiful life.”
Jimenez was a late developer and he insists that the turning point in his career came when Seve Ballesteros appointed him as a vice-captain at the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama. At the time, he 33 years old and had managed to win just twice.
“That was an amazing experience for me,” Jimenez says. “I was in the right place at the right time. I learned so much. I had played well before that, but it helped me to be there. I haven’t changed though. Why would I have to change? I am myself. I am Miguel Angel Jimenez, someone who has enjoyed the same things all my life. That’s me. You would, for example, have to plant a bomb in my side to get me away from the golf course. The luckiest thing that ever happened to me is finding golf in my life. I do what I want to do. To me, golf is a way of living.
“I had my first victory in 1992 at the Piaget Open in Belgium. I played in the last round with Nick Faldo when he was on top of the world. Seve was on the side. My English now is not good - you can imagine how it was 28 years ago. I said to him, ‘What am I going to say?’ He told me, ’Say what you want, you are the winner. People won’t understand anything so don’t worry.
“I played a practice round last week with two French guys who were 26, so I said, ‘Ah, you were born in 1994, that is my fifth year on tour already and I already had a victory before you were born.’ So yes, you get used to it. It is nice because we are still making the same scores and you are still competitive there."
Another milestone was achieved at the Forest of Arden, with 45-year-old Scot David Drysdale making his 500th start. And he is still looking for his first win. He has accumulated 5.7 million Euros in prize money and has come close several times, never more so than at the Qatar Masters earlier this year, where he lost on the fifth hole of a playoff to Jorge Campillo.
“I’ll never be truly satisfied as a professional until I have won on tour, but the life it has given me is one of extreme fortune,” Drysdale says. “It is not something you set out to achieve when you start playing professionally to play 500 events on the European Tour, but it is a fantastic achievement. I have enjoyed experiences and made friendships around the world. I know how lucky I am in that respect.
“It was tough to watch Jorge making all those putts in Qatar. He literally couldn’t miss. On the first playoff hole, the fact that he got up and down from the fairway bunker was unbelievable. But that’s what Jorge does. He is an absolute machine on the long putts and to be fair to him, every single putt he made in the playoff was right in the middle of the cup. He made the putts and deserved to win.”
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