Cigar is lit up but race isn’t over yet

Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain lines up a putt at the 18th during the third day of the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie .
Picture: Mark Runnacles/PA
Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain lines up a putt at the 18th during the third day of the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie . Picture: Mark Runnacles/PA
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What a pity that the number of players sharing the Carnoustie course record didn’t go into double figures. Having set up that opportunity with a majestic 5-iron from 200 yards to seven feet at the last, it would have been a fitting reward for a superb day’s work by Miguel Angel Jimenez if he’d joined the nine men, including Colin Montgomerie and Alan Tait, to have shot 64 on the venerable Angus links.

That would have been the bonus for the Spaniard, though. What matters most to him is that a flawless seven-under-par round has put him in pole position heading into today’s final circuit in the £1.35 million Senior Open. Bidding to land a first over-50s major, having been fourth 12 months and eighth two years ago in this one, Jimenez leads by four shots from a quartet consisting of Englishman Paul Broadhurst (68) and American trio Wes Short jnr (69), Tom Byrum (71) and Joe Durant (71) in the battle for a £213,040 top prize.

Jimenez, a 21-time winner on the European Tour who has already clocked up three victories in two and a half years on the over-50s circuit, said it would be “amazing” to triumph in the home of golf for the first time in his career. In preparation for that title bid today, the 52-year-old Malaga man was set to repeat his normal evening routine. “Tonight, I’m going to do exactly the same things I did the previous night,” he said, smiling. “I will go with my friends for a nice dinner with a nice bottle of Rioja and after that I’m going to have a big, fat cigar with a nice Lagavulin malt whisky.”

Wearing tartan trews, Jimenez started the day three shots behind the joint overnight leaders, Durant and Japan’s Kohki Idoki, but had moved to the head of affairs by covering the opening ten holes in four-under before adding further birdies at the 12th, 14th and 17th. Just as pleasing as the 15-foot birdie putt he converted at the penultimate hole was a 10-foot par save at the 16th after his tee shot had toppled off the green on the left. That he used a putter from there was down to experience and Jimenez has bags of that, having been at this lark for 34 years.

There were chances to land regular majors in that time. “I remember 2001 at Lytham when David Duval won,” he recalled. “I think on No.15, I took two shots to get out of a bunker. Then, at Muirfield in 2013, I led after two rounds. A couple years ago in The Masters I was very close (finishing fourth) also. And, in the 2000 US Open, when Tiger [Woods] won by 15 shots, I won the other competition (he shared second spot in that event at Pebble Beach with Ernie Els).”

Broadhurst, who made a winning over-50s debut in the Scottish Seniors Open at Archerfield Links last year, will partner Jimenez in the final round. It followed the Midlander holing an eight-foot par putt at the last and Durant slipping back into the group on seven-under after failing to get up and down from sand there. “I’ve been keeping my eye on his game all the way around,” said Broadhurst, who was in the group in front of Jimenez, “and he’s going to be the man to beat. But I’m sure he’ll be as nervous as anyone. I’ll just concentrate on my own game and see what happens.”

Bernhard Langer, the 2010 winner here and champion again in 2014, is eight off the lead, having got it to five-under and four behind Jimenez before dropping shots at the 16th and 18th as he signed for a third straight 71. “I pushed a 4-iron a yard or two at both holes and failed to get up and down on each occasion,” said the 58-year-old German. He is looking to enjoy a bit more success on the greens today than he has had so far but insisted this is not a course for going gung-ho. “You can only be so aggressive here,” added the seven-time Senior major winner. “If you go crazy, you will be punished real bad.”

This title race is not over yet.