GOLF

Miguel Angel Jimenez aiming for fifth Hong Kong Open title

Spaniard out to stretch European Tour record as the oldest winner after last year's success

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 10:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 10:05pm

Miguel Angel Jimenez will be out to stretch his record as the European Tour's oldest winner after confirming he will return to defend his Hong Kong Open title in October.

The Spaniard will be bidding to win an unprecedented third consecutive Hong Kong Open. Aged 49 years and 337 days, he defended his title at Hong Kong Golf Club last December, his fourth win after also lifting the trophy in 2004 and 2007.

This tournament holds a very special place in my heart, for obvious reasons
Miguel Angel Jimenez

That made him a record breaker, and he has since broken it again, winning the Open de Espana in May for his 21st European Tour title after turning 50.

"This tournament holds a very special place in my heart, for obvious reasons," he said in a statement released by organisers.

"It is just a unique event - the city, the golf course, the people - they all contribute to what is always one of the best and most popular tournaments of the season for us players.

"Last year's win was possibly the most special as I defended my title and also extended my record as the oldest winner on the European Tour.

"It will give me great pride to once again return as reigning champion. I hope that I can make it five [titles]."

It remains to be seen if Jimenez is again one of the few recognisable names to casual fans. Last year's field was greatly weakened compared to previous years after organisers failed to secure a title sponsor, and there has still been no announcement about a replacement for this year. The tournament clashes with the €2.35 million (HK$24.4 million) Volvo World Match Play Championship in London, likely to be a more attractive event for the European Tour's best players.

On the PGA Tour, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open offers almost five times Hong Kong's prize of US$1.3 million.

In the absence of a sponsor to boost prize money or pay appearance fees, organisers' best hope of securing big names may be the fact that the first two events of the tour's lucrative four-tournament "Final Series" - the US$7 million BMW Masters (October 30 to November 2) and the US$8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions (November 6-9) - are both in Shanghai, conceivably making Hong Kong an attractive "acclimatisation" option.

But that case would have been strengthened had Hong Kong been scheduled one week before Shanghai rather than two.

Keith Williams, general manager of Hong Kong Golf Club, said: "We are delighted Miguel will be returning to defend his title in the Hong Kong Open.

"He is an extremely popular player in Hong Kong, not only because of his fantastic record but also because he genuinely loves the golf club and the city, and truly appreciates the history of this great tournament."