The Senior Tour might be around the corner, but Miguel Angel Jimenez proved he still has the oomph to compete at the highest level when he won the UBS Hong Kong Open yesterday and became the oldest winner in European Tour history.
At 48 years and 318 days, the cigar-smoking, wine-drinking, fun-loving Jimenez turned the tables on the modern-day gym-honed golfers and showed middle-aged men with beer bellies can still be winners as he held his nerve to win by one shot in front of 14,786 fans at Hong Kong Golf Club.
There must be something in the Fanling air, for this is the third time the Spaniard has won this tournament, having previously clinched the silverware in 2004 and 2007. No surprise then that as soon as he was presented with the trophy by top UBS official Kathryn Shih, he planted three quick pecks on the gleaming Cup and raised three fingers to the cheering crowd.
"It is guaranteed, I'm coming back next year," said the joyful Jimenez. Words which will sound sweet to besieged organisers with the tournament facing a bleak future as no blue-chip sponsor has been unearthed to step into the shoes of the Swiss bankers, who this year came in at the last minute. Yesterday, UBS officials refused to say if they would extend the relationship, which has lasted eight years.
Jimenez, who had begun the day in the lead tied with New Zealander Michael Campbell on 10 under, rounded it off with a five-under-par 65 to aggregate 15-under 265. It was one shot better than Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed, who had finished a couple of flights ahead and was watching in the hope the crowd favourite would falter with a bogey at the 18th that would have meant a play-off. But Jimenez oozed cool as he calmly hit his tee shot right down the middle of the fairway, before planting his approach shot 15 feet from the pin. He missed his birdie putt but was left with a simple two-footer tap-in to par the hole and claim a famous victory.
Victory, which earned the man from Malaga a purse of US$333,330, was more remarkable considering he had only two bogeys in his entire tournament, both coming in the first round, at the 17th and 18th holes.
"This is what you need to do to win here," said Jimenez. "I saw that Andersson Hed was 14 under and I knew I had to concentrate. This was probably the best I have played here. No bogeys after day one showed how consistently I played."
A sweet run of four birdies from the seventh to 10th holes laid the foundation for Jimenez. In the final flight with Campbell, the Spaniard grabbed the outright lead for the first time when he rolled in a birdie at the seventh and then kept extending the lead to three shots at the end of the 10th hole as he raced to 15 under for the tournament.
With playing partner Campbell struggling with his putter, the challenge came from elsewhere - Matteo Manassero and Andersson Hed.
The Italian looked threatening as he collected four birdies to close to 13 under but couldn't keep the momentum going to finish on 11 under.
Hed was more consistent, stringing together six birdies in a flawless round, but couldn't drive home the advantage when he missed two more birdie putts at the last two holes.