GULLANE, Scotland – We might have to rename the old Claret Jug the old Rioja Jug on Sunday night. Rest assured Miguel Angel Jimenez will fill it with Spain’s finest red if he wins the Open Championship.
Can you imagine the party if the extroverted Spaniard were to win?
We’ve had back-to-back fortysomethings win the Open Championship in Darren Clarke and Ernie Els. Why not three in a row?
Jimenez is in the lead thanks to a level-par 71 to go with his opening 68 to finish 36 holes at 3 under, one shot clear of Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood.
Jimenez, 49, not only would be the oldest winner of the Open Championship, beating Old Tom Morris, who was 46 years and 99 days when he won in 1867, but the oldest major winner. Julius Boros was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
It’s debatable whether Boros enjoyed life the way Jimenez does. This is the man who warms up on the range with a cigar in his mouth. He’s not drinking just water this week. You can bet he’s having a few glasses of wine every evening. And why not?
“Enjoy yourself and what you do in life,” Jimenez said. “That’s what I’m doing.
“I feel relaxed. I love what I’m doing. I play golf. I do this for a living. I keep doing the same thing for 25 years. It’s the only thing I like to do in my life. I keep elastic and flexible. I’m still training and walking and still able to shoot low and still here.”
The Spaniard broke his right leg skiing at the end of last year and needed time off to rehab. He didn’t make his first start until the Spanish Open in April. He’s not fully fit but near enough.
“The only thing is the recovery,” he said. “The quadriceps muscle is still 80 percent. But I feel very nice.”
As for his skiing, Jimenez rates himself a 10-handicapper on the slopes. He says he’ll still tackle dangerous runs, but added a proviso. “I can go slowly on the black one.”
The man from Malaga, Spain, is called The Mechanic because of his love of fast cars, especially red Ferraris. He has compiled 19 European Tour wins since turning professional in 1982. The closest he has come to a major was a tie for third in the 2001 Open Championship, though he did tie for second in the 2000 U.S. Open, a distant 15 strokes behind runaway winner Tiger Woods.
Needless to say, he’s not concerned about the stresses most would feel heading into the final 36 holes of the game’s oldest major.
“I don’t have any pressure,” Jimenez said. “You have to do the same things that you do every day. You don’t change anything.
“As soon as I leave the golf course, I’m just going to stay with my girlfriend, with my sons, and we’re going to have dinner, like I do every day. I don’t need to do anything special. I’m leading, and now I have to go to bed at 10 o’clock? Bull—-!”
Jimenez holds the record for oldest European Tour winner for his victory in the 2012 UBS Hong Kong Open at age 48 years and 318 days. Why not oldest major winner?
Get some expensive Cubans and fine rioja ready for Sunday night.