One interesting hour
Spend time with Miguel Angel Jimenez and you learn why the 50-year-old Spaniard enjoys life to the fullest
The wine was uncorked and pours of 2006 Muga Rioja Torre Muga -- a musky, complex and powerfully scented Tempranillo with a lengthy finish -- soon followed. There was a nice selection of hand-rolled cigars from Cuba on the table, too, including a few Cohiba Siglo VIs. Made from the finest leaves of the Vuelta Abajo region, they feature an even burn and smooth draw.
It is time to spend an hour with the World's Most Interesting Golfer. But will an hour be long enough?
After all, Miguel Angel Jimenez is not a man who likes to be rushed.
In Spain, where Jimenez was born to the son of a mason and a mother who had her hands full raising Miguel and his six brothers, there’s a saying, No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano. Loosely translated, it means getting up very early won’t make the sun rise any sooner.
In other words, effort only goes so far and not everything is in one’s hands. There’s a time to let go, relax and let things take their course.
At age 50, Jimenez most assuredly lives by this.
“It doesn’t matter whether he shoots 65 or 75,” Graeme McDowell says of his two-time European Ryder Cup teammate. “He’ll have a nice glass of wine in the evening and kick back and enjoy his life.”
And savor the finer things in it, of which there are plenty.
Jimenez only wears “proper shoes,” which is to say ones made of some of the highest-quality leather in the world, usually from Italy, like that of his beloved handmade Nebuloni golf spikes. He calls them his “gloves for the feet.”
Among the luxurious automobiles in his garage are a Ferrari 550 Maranello and a BMW M5. “A beautiful car,” Jimenez says of his German-made sports sedan. To keep it real, he also has a Mini Cooper S.
In May, he married 38-year-old Susanne Styblo, an Austrian beauty and his second wife. The wedding was held at Jimenez’ own golf academy in Torremolinos, Spain, just down the road from where he was born in Malaga. Styblo arrived in a Rolls Royce and the ceremony took place on a hole named “Angustias,” which in Spanish means sorrows.
Yet there is little it seems that Jimenez anguishes over. He has his golf, his new marriage and his two teenage sons, both of whom are accomplished golfers. Life is good.
“When I’m away from the golf course I want to do my own things,” he says. “After it is done of course, I want to smoke a cigar and have a glass of wine. I’m a man who wants to enjoy those things.”
Don’t let the frizzy orange ponytail, aviator sunglasses and 42-inch waistline fool you. Miguel Angel Jimenez’s persona belies the Spanish fire that burns deep within. He is a man who takes his golf very seriously.
So much so that four years ago when he was in danger of not qualifying for the European Ryder Cup team, he skipped his nephew’s wedding to play in the Johnnie Walker Classic. Jimenez not only made the team, he then flew his nephew and the new bride to Celtic Manor for the biennial showdown against the Americans.
“What better place to have your honeymoon than the Ryder Cup?” says Jimenez, who earned two crucial points for Europe in a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory that included a 4-and-3 thumping of Bubba Watson in singles.
Earlier this year, Jimenez put himself in position to become the oldest winner of the Masters before finishing fourth. It was his best result in 15 starts at Augusta National and also the best Masters finish by a player 50 or older since Sam Snead tied for third at 50 in 1963.
The following week, Jimenez opened with a 65 in his first career Champions Tour start and went on to win the tournament by two over Bernhard Langer. But the victory didn’t sway the Spaniard, who by estimates could earn well into seven figures sticking to the over-50 circuit. He has no plans to take up full-time residence on the Champions Tour anytime soon.
Instead, Jimenez is focused on trying to become the oldest player to make the Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles this fall, which he has a very good chance to do. He’s currently 10th on the European points list and 12th in world points. “It means a lot to me,” he says with a glint in his eye of what would be his fifth appearance.
In the meantime, he will focus on attempting to win his first career major championship this week at The Open Championship. It will be his 55th career start in a major. He has nine top-10 finishes; his best was a tie for second with Ernie Els at the 2000 U.S. Open. Of course, both players finished 15 strokes behind winner Tiger Woods, so it was a hollow runner-up result.
Jimenez is not a player who worries whether his career will be defined by a major win. That doesn’t mean, though, that he’ll just be out there enjoying the view at Hoylake this week.
“I would love to have any major,” he says, “but The Open is the oldest tournament in the world.”
Perhaps one of the best recent examples of Jimenez’s inner drive dates back to just over 18 months ago. On a ski vacation in southern Spain in December 2012, the accomplished skier lost his balance, fell and suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg.
It was a devastating injury for someone of Jimenez’s age and stature. But sheer hard work had him playing golf just four months later and that July at Muirfield, he had the lead through the first 36 holes of The Open Championship.
“A lot of things come to mind -- the ponytail, cigar, wine. But one of the things that comes to mind is hard worker,” Sergio Garcia says of his fellow Spaniard. “After (the accident), at his age, I didn’t think he would recover the way he has done and to be able to play golf the way he has been playing.”
But playing this way never came easy to Jimenez. Though countryman Seve Ballesteros was a “hero,” Jimenez never had Ballesteros’ natural talent. It took “The Mechanic” (a nickname Jimenez earned for working in an auto repair shop for a few months) six years to reach the European Tour after he turned pro in 1982. His first win didn’t come until 1992.
Not particularly long off the tee and with a swing that has a lot of moving parts, Jimenez’s best characteristics between the ropes have largely been to avoid making big mistakes, making the most of what he does possess and old-fashioned work ethic. It has led to 21 international wins, including 13 since he turned 40, as well as that Champions Tour win, his first on American soil.
It also includes his first win in his country’s national championship, the Open de Espana, in May when he became the European Tour’s oldest champion at age 50.
“What you do today is going to reflect on tomorrow,” Jimenez says. “I never get tired of practice. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I know what I’m doing today.”
Though he doesn’t quite get “The Most Interesting Man In The World” comparisons, he certainly lives the part, exuding a joie de vivre (or, in Spanish, alegría de vivir).
Not that there haven’t been a few moments when the coolest guy in the room lost his cool.
Three years ago while playing in a tournament in Bahrain, a string of missed putts led to Jimenez breaking his putter in two. “It’s not my character,” he says about the incident. “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing, so I punished myself ... and the putter.”
No matter. Jimenez birdied his final three holes using a lob wedge to cap a second-round 65 that gave him a share of the lead. Sounds like something the Most Interesting Man is supposed to do.
Mostly, though, Jimenez takes pleasure in enjoying himself and the trappings golf has afforded him. He is unquestionably comfortable in his own skin -- even when his body is being twisted and contorted in a bizarre stretching routine that is always a head-turner. “It started many years ago,” Jimenez says of his warm-up. “But I know the people like to see it. My wife, she loves it, too, of course.”
All of this has made Jimenez somewhat of an enviable figure among his peers. How could he not be?
“I don’t like to say he’s a great role model; he’s not in great shape, smokes likes a train and drinks like a fish,” says one European player. “But he’s a great role model from the point of view of to enjoy what you do. He appreciates what he does, works his ass off out here and then when he goes home he enjoys his life. Golf isn't life or death.
“There’s a lot to be said for that because a lot of guys are not very good at pouring their heart and soul into what they do out here and be able to go back home and switch off and just enjoy your life and appreciate what you’ve got.”
That, Jimenez does, whether drinking a glass of Rioja, enjoying a hand-rolled cigar from Havana or winning golf tournaments. “You need to love what you’re doing,” Jimenez says. “I love to compete and I love to feel the pressure. I enjoy the last few years very much of course.”
And he will continue to enjoy the next few years – not that he’s in any hurry.
But for now, the wine glasses are empty. The cigars have been reduced to ashes and stubs. The hour is over.
Even the World’s Most Interesting Golfer eventually has to sleep, right? Somehow, though, you imagine that Jimenez is still thirsty -- and that another satisfying glass of Rioja may soon be lifted.