Miguel Angel Jimenez hails Seve Bellesteros - ‘my inspiration’

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Thirty-four years after the late Seve Ballesteros punched the air in delight when he sank the putt that saw him crowned Open champion at the spiritual home of golf, another Spaniard celebrated at the Old Course yesterday.

Miguel Angel Jimenez claimed a sixth PGA Tour Champions win and a second over-50s major in the space of three months when he closed with a 69 to secure a one-shot victory over defending champion Bernhard Langer.

He may have smiled at the suggestion that the Claret Jug will become the Rioja Jug for the next 12 months, but Jimenez was clearly emotional at having followed in the footsteps of the man he grew up idolising.

He said: “St Andrews is the place many people want to win and after Seve played well here in the Open it’s amazing to know my name is now part of history.

“This is one of my biggest victories and Seve was a real inspiration throughout the years, what he did. When he won here I was 20 and serving 15 months National Service in the army.

“There are no words to describe what I feel. To get my hands on this trophy in front of the fans and my friends and family is truly amazing. All titles are very important, but a major, the Open, is even more special.”

The 54-year-old also paid tribute to the runner-up for the gracious manner in which Langer accepted defeat after going so close to capturing a record fourth Senior Open title.

Langer, also runner-up to Ballesteros in 1984, waited at the 18th green to congratulate Jimenez and the champion said: “He finished in the group in front of me and it is nice. He’s a top player and a top-class person.”

Jimenez, the first Spanish winner in the 31-year history of the event, took a two-shot lead into the final round, but he was pursued all the way by 60-year-old Langer.

Trailing by three shots playing the 15th, Langer engineered a two-shot swing when he made birdie to Jimenez’s bogey five. But Jimenez stayed strong down the stretch to claim the top prize of £240,000 with a 12-under-par total after also capturing the Regions Tradition in the States in May.

Langer said: “Miguel played an awesome four days of golf, and he’s a very well deserved winner.

“There were several turning points. I was four-under after six and then missed a putt from four or five feet on seven and that shocked me a little bit because I was putting great up until that point. But I kept plugging away.”

Three-time winner Tom Watson also kept plugging away after threatening to pen a golfing fairytale when he led briefly during Saturday’s third round.

But in the end Father Time caught up with the 68-year-old eight-time major winner and he eventually finished tied 21st on one under after signing for a closing 77. He said: “I was disappointed the way I played, starting at 14 yesterday when I began hitting into pot bunkers, and when you do that, you don’t score very well. I didn’t hit too many good shots today either and was in the wrong place with a few bad ones.

“But walking over the Swilken Bridge and looking back and capturing the scene is also a very special moment and I have done that a few times and it was emotional.

“But I still had business to do and I just didn’t finish very well, and that’s disappointing. However, all in all, I can’t complain.

“I played very well for the first two rounds and shot my age on Friday. I also didn’t have a five on my scorecard in the first round so that tells me I still have a little bit in the
 tank.”

Colin Montgomerie, pictured, signed off with a 74 to share 14th spot and then called for the event to be staged at St Andrews every year.

Monty, who shared second early in his round after bagging birdies at the first and fifth before back-to-back bogies wrecked his bid, fears that he might never have another chance to win an Open at the Old Course.

And he said: “I think it should be here at least every five years if the powers that be allow us to close the course for a week in prime time” before quickly adding: “We should be here every bloody year.

“This tournament really feels like a major and it hasn’t always done, so let’s hope it doesn’t take 50-odd years before we’re back in again, because then this would be my last time. “It’s been fantastic. It’s just a shame that the crowds were light today because of the weather.”

Commenting on his performance over the four days, Monty said: “I hit the ball well but just skimmed the hole all week and didn’t make enough putts.”

Follow Scot Sandy Lyle signed off with a 74 to finish three over following a third-round collapse that wrecked his hopes of a return to the Open next year at 
Portrush.

The 60-year-old two-time major champion mixed four birdies with four bogies and a double bogey in his quest to end a seven-year wait to land a second senior title.

Lyle, whose solitary success on the over-50s circuit came at the ISPS Handa Senior World Championship in 2011, had been in contention at halfway following a 66.