MIGUEL Angel Jimenez will put his recovery from a broken leg to the test on his return to action at the Spanish Open today.
Jimenez, who surpassed Des Smyth as the oldest winner on the European Tour when he lifted the Hong Kong Open aged 48 years and 318 days last November, suffered the injury a month later while skiing near his home in Malaga.
“My leg is improving daily,” the 49-year-old told reporters. “I work out every morning in the gym and I’m actually a little ahead of schedule on my rehab. I am not 100 per cent fit, but I want to test myself and see how I feel.
“I can’t wait to be back on Tour with my friends and I’d hate to miss the chance of playing at El Saler.”
Jimenez made his tour debut in the Spanish Open 30 years ago and will be making his 599th career appearance this week.
“Javier Arana’s wonderful design blends beautifully with its natural surroundings, both in the pine trees area and in the dunes area. For me it’s the best course in Spain and I love all the holes,” Jimenez added.
“It’s a beautiful layout with a strong finish. The 17th is a good par-3 towards the dunes and the 18th is spectacular. Once you play at El Saler you get hooked. It’s such an enjoyable course that you keep wanting to come back.
“I have many fond memories of El Saler. We used to play many tournaments in the 80s and I won an under-25 event in 1986. We also played two or three Campeonatos de Levante and, later on, a few European Tour events. The last I played was the 2003 Seve Trophy.”
This week’s event is the only tournament in Spain in 2013 due to the financial crisis but has attracted a strong local contingent, including Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who finished eighth and 20th respectively in the Masters last week.
“I am delighted to be in Valencia, obviously tired coming straight from Augusta but happy to be in Spain,” Fernandez-Castano said.
“El Saler is an indescribable course, there aren’t many left like it, a work of art that must be kept and cared for as if it were a Goya or a Picasso. Hopefully we will get some wind, which is its main defence, to add to the spectacle.
“I’m happy with my game the last few weeks. I am bittersweet about the Masters because I feel I could have done better, although I was there over the weekend and I played with Tiger [Woods] on Saturday. I had already played with him, but Augusta made it more special.
“It’s a shame that we have only one event in Spain this year and that’s the reason why I am here. Had it been a different tournament, I would have taken a break, but it’s my national Open.”
The field contains eight Scots – Craig Lee, Scott Henry, Peter Whiteford, Callum Macaulay, Marc Warren, Alastair Forsyth, David Drysdale and Chris Doak. Drysdale, at 60th, is the highest-placed of the octet in this season’s Race to Dubai, while Lee will be aiming to take up where he left off last time out with a top-ten finish in the Hassan Trophy in Morocco.
Also in the line-up is Edinburgh-born amateur Reeve Whitson. His father Kevin was the former club professional at Turnhouse and has held the same position at Royal County Down for a number of years.
Whitson junior was one of Ireland’s leading lights at last year’s Home Internationals in Ayrshire. He earned his spot in this week’s event by winning the Spanish Amateur Championship at La Manga, beating Englishman Neil Raymond in the final.
THIRD MAN LAW
DAVID Law is up to third place on this season’s Pro Golf Tour money-list after his third-place finish in his defence of the Dar Es Salam Open title.
The two-times Scottish Amateur champion, who recorded his second victory on the third-tier circuit in Turkey earlier this year, closed with a 74 for a three-under-par total of 216. He finished five shots behind the winner, Damian Ulrich, who led a Swiss 1-2 ahead of compatriot Ken Benz. Law picked up a cheque for €2,000, taking his earnings for the season to €12,148, just behind Benz in a race being led by German Ritthammer on €16,596.
Morocco also stages the next event on the circuit – the Lixus Open next week.