Miguel Angel Jimenez last night celebrated becoming the European Tour’s oldest-ever winner – after a week which could have seen him fall outside the world’s top 100 for the first time in nine years.
With a cigar in one hand and glass of red wine in the other, the 48-year-old Spaniard toasted his one-stroke victory over Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Jimenez is only five weeks away from his 49th birthday but did not have a single bogey in the last three rounds and closed with a superb 65 for his third win at the event – all since he turned 40. “It’s always an honour to make records and I hope it’s not the last one,” said the Malaga golfer, nine months older than Ireland’s Des Smyth was when he lifted the 2001 Madeira Islands Open. “I really love this place. You have to control the ball very well – it’s not a matter of distance – and I played very solid all through the week.”
Now with 19 Tour victories, there are only 10 players who have ever won more on the circuit than the ex-caddie, who turned professional in 1982 and had to wait a decade for his first success. Jimenez was also Seve Ballesteros’s vice-captain at the 1997 Ryder Cup, went on to win four caps and in September was one of Jose Maria Olazabal’s assistants at the victory in Chicago.
New Zealander Michael Campbell was joint overnight leader with Jimenez and was hoping for a first win in seven years but, after an opening birdie, he fell back and a double-bogey six on the 18th for a 72 dropped him to joint eighth.
Andersson Hed came through with a 64 but was left ruing what might have been after his 12-foot birdie attempt at the last trickled down the slope, curled left just before the hole and lipped out.
It meant that Jimenez’s eight closing pars were good enough to give him the £208,084 first prize with a 15-under-par aggregate of 265. He now has almost £16 million in career earnings as a result.
The Spaniard birdied the long third, then took control with four more in a row from the seventh. The third of them was the most impressive, a 5-wood approach to Fanling’s hardest hole finishing only two feet from the flag.
Third place went to Australian Marcus Fraser, while joint fourth were Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, Scot Stephen Gallacher and 19-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero. A week on from his third Tour victory at the Singapore Open, Manassero was right in the thick of things until a six at the long 13th and he dropped another shot at the last to finish four back.
Gallacher closed with a flawless five-under 65 as he chalked up a third top 10 in his last four starts. He’s playing through the pain barrier at the moment and is booked in for knee surgery almost straight after next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Despite picking up a cheque for close to £53,000 he only moved up one spot – to 35th – in the Race to Dubai and reckons he probably needs a top 10 this weekend to secure an Open Championship exemption next year by finishing in the top 30.
Paul Lawrie is still tenth on the money-list after the Aberdonian closed with a 68 to finish four shots behind his compatriot in joint tenth.
Gallacher’s earnings were boosted by a tenner after he won a bet with Lawrie over the result of the Aberdeen-Celtic match in the SPL on Saturday.