Jimenez wows in Champions Tour debut, but his focus is on big 2014 goal
April 20, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Miguel Angel Jimenez is focused on one goal in 2014 - making the Ryder Cup team. (Harry How/Getty Images)
MORE: Leaderboard | Jimenez grabs wire-to-wire win | Highlights | Notebook | Schwab Cup
DULUTH, Ga. – Forget about the image. The ponytail, the fat cigars, the appetite for red from the Spanish vineyards.
Miguel Angel Jimenez is a gamer. He simply plays golf in a disarming manner, enjoying it in the same way that he savors everything in life. That conceals, occasionally at least, the tenacity of what he does and how he does it.
Jimenez made his Champions Tour debut at the Greater Gwinnett Championship. On Sunday, he completed his dismantling of the TPC Sugarloaf and those who would challenge him, including the class of the Champions Tour, Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples.
Jimenez shot a final round 67 for a 202 total, 14-under-par, and a 2-shot victory over Bernhard Langer, who posted three straight 68s. Jay Haas (67) claimed third with 206, followed by Fred Couples (70) another shot back.
“It shows my game is in very good shape now,” Jimenez said. “A very nice day, I played very solid, very well. It’s great to play in first Champions event and win.”
Jimenez made 15 birdies and an eagle at TPC Sugarloaf. He dropped shots on consecutive holes in the second round – a bogey at the third followed by a double-bogey at the fourth – before finishing with nine birdies on the final 32 holes. All three rounds were played with lift, clean and place rules.
Jimenez became the 18th player to win his Champions Tour debut and the second in two events. Jeff Maggert won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on March 23. It is the second time in Champions Tour history that golfers making their debut have won back-to-back. In 1980, the first two official events ever played on the Champions Tour were won by Don January (Atlantic City International) and Roberto De Vicenzo (U.S. Senior Open).
Jimenez also became the first player to win a European Tour event (Hong Kong) and a Champions Tour event in the same season.
Jimenez has a career-defining goal for 2014. One way or the other, he will be a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup contingent for the match in Gleneagles, Scotland, in September. He has already been named an assistant by Captain Paul McGinley. That’s nice but it’s not what Jimenez craves.
Miguel Angel Jimenez wins debut at Greater Gwinnett
A native of Malaga, in Spain’s Andalucia region, Jimenez wants to represent his nation and his continent as a player. He wants that in the worst way and everything he does in 2014 will be geared toward that goal. He will concentrate on a European Tour schedule.
If Jimenez qualifies for the Ryder Cup on points or if McGinley adds him as a captain’s pick, he will become the oldest ever member of the European side in a competition that dates back to 1927. Jimenez has played in the Ryder Cup four times. Twice, he has been on the winning side and twice on the losing side.
A fifth appearance would see him surpass Ted Ray, who was 50 years, two months and five days old at the inaugural contest in 1927. Jimenez became eligible for the Champions Tour on January 5 when he celebrated his 50th birthday. He played at TPC Sugarloaf on a sponsor’s exemption and became the first sponsor exemption to win on the Champions Tour since Phil Blackmar won the AT&T Championship in 2009.
Jimenez’s Ryder Cup record isn’t the best. He is 4-8-3 and he’d like a chance to improve on that.
A man who has aged gracefully, like his favorite wines, Jimenez has won 13 of his 20 European Tour victories since turning 40.
As a result of the Ryder Cup ambition, Jimenez’s participation on the Champions Tour is likely to be limited this year.
Or is it?
“I still go my goal for the end of the year,” Jimenez said. “I would love to be part of the Ryder Cup.
“People want me all over the place. I don’t know what’s going to happen for me. It’s not about money … (it would) make me feel proud myself if I play in the Ryder Cup once more.”
Langer said Jimenez told him that this was a one-off cameo on the Champions Tour.
“He said he would not play any more this year (on the Champions Tour),” Langer said. “He wants to make the Ryder Cup team and be the oldest player ever to play for Europe. But golf can change. Who knows? Maybe he makes the Ryder Cup team by July and comes out here. I think we’re going to see more of him in the future but not in the next few months.”
The final threesome Sunday was a matchmaker’s dream. All the elements fell neatly in place.
The most popular attraction on the Champions Tour, Couples, was playing alongside the best player, Langer, and the rookie everybody wanted to see, Jimenez.
“That’s about as good a pairing as you’re going to get,” Couples said.
The timing was impeccable, too. A week after the Masters Tournament, where Jimenez finished fourth, Langer tied for eight and Couples was in contention before slipping in the final round and finishing T20, the trio arrived in excellent form.
Between them, the world-class players have a combined 19 Ryder Cup appearances – Langer, 10; Couples, 5; and Jimenez, 4.
“The three of us are certainly maybe in the top 10 senior golfers in the world right now,” Langer said after Saturday’s second round.
For two weeks in Georgia, the best senior in the world was a Mechanic from Spain with a finely-tuned golf game.