2004: Jimenez wins, but Ryder Cup the story

Munich, Germany

Rarely has the winner of a tournament been paid so little attention.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez won the BMW International Open Aug. 29, and with it the top prize of 300,000 euros (approximately $360,130). But he was secondary to the real story in Germany.

Jimenez shot 66 Sunday to finish at 21 under par, good enough for a two-shot victory over Thomas Levet. Paul Casey, Alex Cejka and Colin Montgomerie tied for third, three shots behind, but all of their subplots paled to the week’s big story – the finalization of the European Ryder Cup team.

“Of course the only pressure I had today was the pressure of trying to win the tournament, which was great for me,” said Jimenez, who already had qualified for the Ryder Cup team. “The guys around me were fighting for the Ryder Cup spots, which was hard for them, but it was still a big win for me because this is a very big week with a big field.”

It was one of the most competitive European Ryder Cup races ever. Nine players entered the tournament with a chance to earn the last three automatic spots, and calculators were buzzing.

David Howell, Ian Poulter and Paul McGinley began the tournament in the last three spots but were glancing constantly over their shoulders at the progress of Jean Francois Remesy, Joakim Haeggman, Fredrik Jacobson, Brian Davis, Raphael Jacquelin and Graeme McDowell.

One by one the chasing pack dropped out. Remesy and Davis missed the cut, while McDowell and Jacquelin left themselves with too much to do on the weekend to make the team. A poor Saturday finish by Haeggman – three bogeys in the last five holes – meant he, too, was out of the picture. That left Jacobson as the man able to give fits to Howell, Poulter and McGinley.

Jacobson needed a top-4 finish to gain automatic entry. At one point Sunday he tied Jimenez and Levet for the lead at 16 under par, leaving Poulter as the man likely to miss the trip.

Poulter narrowly missed an automatic selection three years ago when he missed the cut in Germany and finished 11th on the table behind Padraig Harrington. He appeared to be heading for another near miss when he dropped to 4 under after a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 10th.

The five-time winner then showed the sort of mettle Langer will be looking for in Detroit. He played the last eight holes in 6 under par with two birdies and two eagles, including one at the 18th hole.

“It could easily have been 9, 10 under,” Poulter said. “I wasn’t nervous all day. The only time I was nervous was over my second shot at the last. I wanted to make 3 so badly.

“That’s the biggest 3 I’ve made in my life so far.”

Poulter’s 2-under 70 was good enough for a tie for 25th and18,180 euros to take the last automatic spot on the team – 50,673 euros ahead of Jacobson.

McGinley’s fate was in the balance until the 18th. He nearly threw his spot away when his second shot to the par-5 closing hole bounced off the grandstand and into a water hazard. McGinley, the European hero two years ago at The Belfry, managed to get up and down for par to close at 15 under to tie with Jacobson and qualify.

Jacobson went out in 32, but came back in 37 for a 69 that left him tied for sixth.

“I was proud of my effort on the front nine,” Jacobson said. “Pity I couldn’t keep it going.”

Jacobson was the real loser in Munich. Not only did he finish sixth on the world points list, missing qualifying that way by one spot, but he also missed |by one spot on the European points list. Then Langer snubbed him for a captain’s pick in favor of Montgomerie and Luke Donald.

It made for one thrilling event. If European Tour officials are looking for a marketing tool, they should put the final round on video and mail it to potential sponsors. Not that Fredrik Jacobson will want to add it to his collection. This is one tournament he would just as soon forget.

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