Jimenez shows you can swing success at 40

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 December, 2004, 12:00am

'I have proved today that golf is not only for young guys. Golf is for long life'

His middle name might be Angel. But Miguel Angel Jimenez certainly does not live up to his namesake. The fun-loving Spaniard scored a popular victory at the Omega Hong Kong Open, edging to a one-shot victory and then declaring that it was a blow for all middle-aged mortals.

'I have proved today that golf is not only for young guys. Golf is for long life. I have shown that even at 40, you can still win tournaments. Forty has been good to me,' said Jimenez yesterday.

He showed he is no winged wonder. Not some celebrity with his nose in the air. The fifth of seven brothers, once a garage mechanic, he has his feet firmly on the ground. He is the common man's golfer. No wonder he was popular at Fanling. And he endeared himself further when he said look at me - here is living proof of a guy who does not go to the gym, does not do regular exercise, smokes fat Cuban cigars, and drinks beer.

'But yet, I have won five tournaments this year since turning 40 in January. I hope this year can go on for ever. I also hope the next few years are even better,' smiled the pony-tailed Spaniard after holding off an exhaustive challenge to win his fifth tournament this year on the European Tour.

Hot on his heels all day was his Ryder Cup teammate, Ireland's Padraig Harrington, and James Kingston of South Africa. Both fell short by one shot as Jimenez carded a final round of four-under-par 66 to total 14-under 266 to win his third title in Asia in 2004.

'I have always loved Asia and I enjoy playing in this part of the world. I love the people and I love their smiles. You don't see smiles like this in Europe and the United States,' said Jimenez whose previous two wins in Asia this year were in Thailand and China.

Yesterday's one-shot triumph took his tally to five. No other European Tour golfer has come close to matching him. Only one other golfer has done better than him this year - Fiji's Vijay Singh on the American PGA Tour with nine victories.

'He is 41. I'm 40. It shows that life begins at this age. But now I want more. My main aim now is to win a Major and maybe a green jacket,' said Jimenez. 'This has been the best year of my career. I don't know why I won five tournaments but every win has been special. And this being the last one, is the win I enjoy most.'

The cigar-chomping Jimenez had to wait until the very last hole to secure his victory with Harrington and Kingston pushing him all the way. Jimenez and Kingston were tied for the lead heading into the 18th tee before the South African stumbled with a poor drive into the trees which forced him to take a penalty drop. Kingston closed with a bogey to finish with a 67 and a 13-under 267.

World number six Harrington, who was hoping to become the first person in 40 years to successfully defend the title - Taiwan's Hsieh Yung-yo did it in 1964 - had a birdie putt of 20 feet to force a play-off but rolled his attempt short in front of a massive gallery. Jimenez was left with a comfortable two-putt from eight feet for par to secure the Hong Kong Open title on his first visit to the SAR. 'Five victories this year, I did not think I could win so many times at the start of this year. I feel very happy,' added Jimenez.

He had been placed under the microscope by Kingston at the 17th hole when the 39-year-old South African drained a 30-footer to edge ahead. But Jimenez was equal to the task as he holed his birdie put from 25 feet to draw level again.

Harrington, who last year had birdied the last two holes on his way to victory, could not repeat the feat. 'I putted badly all day and it cost me. I probably missed six makable putts all day. But at least I finished second. I needed to do that to ensure my sixth place world ranking going into the new year,' said the 33-year-old.

Thailand's Thammanoon Srirot finished as the best Asian player in the elite field closing with a 69 for fourth with Dane Thomas Bjorn on 270 while Englishmen Nick Faldo and David Howell finished joint sixth on 272.

Faldo had begun the day one stroke behind leaders Jimenez, Harrington and Kingston, and had been hoping for his first tournament win in nearly eight years. But poor driving and putting cost the six-time Major winner. While his 40th career win proved elusive, Faldo, 47, can still be happy in that his performance was an improvement on last year's joint-15th. Age does not seem to have hampered him.

As Jimenez proved yesterday.