It needed a playoff to determine the Spanish Open, the year’s first European Tour event on the mainland. The winner is one of the most popular characters in world golf. Here are 5 Things you need to know from this week’s European Tour event.
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1. JIMENEZ FOR RYDER CUP? Who’d bet against Miguel Angel Jimenez playing in this year’s Ryder Cup at the ripe old age of 50? Not many.
Like fine Rioja wine, the Spaniard matures with age. That was obvious as he earned his 21st European Tour win in a playoff with Australia’s Richard Green and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters. Fourteen of those wins have come after he turned 40.
The senior golfer earned victory with a par at the first extra hole, the 18th. Cue celebrations featuring Cuban cigars and expensive bottles of vino tinto.
Jimenez has made four Ryder Cup appearances. He played in two losing teams in 1999 and 2008, but won twice in 2004 and 2010. The latter match seemed to be his swan song, but his Spanish Open victory suggests he could be fitted for a team jacket for Gleneagles.
He moves to sixth on the European Points list, just two spots out of an automatic place. Don’t be surprised if takes one of those places and becomes the oldest European Ryder Cup player ever.
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2. PEPPERELL’S LIFE LESSONS: It’s not long ago that England’s Eddie Pepperell was on the verge of stardom, a view he himself promulgated. However, European Tour life can be humbling, a lesson Eddie has learned well.
Seven years ago at the British Boys Championship at Royal Porthcawl, Pepperell turned his nose up at the prospect of playing college golf when I told him there were coaches drooling over his game.
He told me he intended “to do an Ollie Fisher” and leap from amateur golf to the European Tour. Pepperell said this without embarrassment.
He was a little cockier back then. He’s much more humble now.
Pepperell held the joint 36-hole lead in Spain before crashing to a third round 79. He closed with a level par 72 to finish T24.
Of course Eddie P. did not do an Oliver Fisher and get his Tour card at the first attempt. He failed at the 2011 Q School. He spent a year on the 2012 Challenge Tour, earning the 13th card for the 2013 European Tour.
Pepperell enjoyed a successful rookie season, finishing 76th on the money list. The last few years have made him far wiser. That much is obvious from his regular blog.
The Englishman is one of the more erudite professionals. Here’s an excerpt from his latest blog, http://eddiepepperell.wordpress.com:
“I now understand a little more why it sometimes takes a decade in professional golf before reaching the summit. Success at this level is far beyond talent. It is about continuously doing what you know works and when it becomes mundane, doing it even more. And that is harder than it may sound.”
Hard not to pull for a guy with that attitude.
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3. MCGINLEY’S LIVES UP TO PROMISE: European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said he had no intention of becoming a ceremonial golfer when he took the job to lead Europe at Gleneagles this September.
He lived up to his word in Spain with a T-15 finish. Not bad for a guy with one eye on the European Ryder Cup points lists.
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4. THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG: Former NCAA champion Thomas Pieters quickly has made his mark on the European Tour. Pieters won college golf’s biggest crown in 2011 to set up huge expectations. He lived up to them in Spain.
The Belgian held the 54-hole lead to set up a tee time with Jimenez. Although he just missed out, it seems the hype was justified.
The former University of Illinois player took the right attitude into the final round. “Playing with Jimenez will be fun, I’ll get to learn a lot from him and I’ll just soak it all in,” he said.
It’s a safe bet he learned enough to know what he needs to do next time he has a chance to win.
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5. COLSAERTS’ STRANGE CASE: What are we to make of Nicolas Colsaerts? Two years ago at the Ryder Cup everyone was hailing him as Europe’s next superstar. That star seems to have fizzled out.
The long-hitting Belgian missed the cut in Spain, an event he would have been expected to do well in. That’s not surprising given Colsaerts’ form during the last two seasons.
Colsaerts finished 11th on the 2012 European money list. He was 38th last year and is currently 70th.
He won in 2012. The Volvo World Match Play Championship was his second win following the previous year’s Volvo China Open.
The Belgian posted six top-10 finishes last year but never really looked like winning. He has a second place finish already this season in the Maybank Malaysian Open, however he was a distant seven shots behind Lee Westwood.
He hasn’t made much of an impression on the PGA Tour either. He was 128th on the money list last year and is 181st this season. Finally, he’s 116th on the Official World Golf Ranking from a career high of 32nd.
As for the Ryder Cup, he’s not even close. He’s 44th on the world point’s list and 51st on the European list. He needs a banner summer to have a chance.
Will the real Nicolas Colsaerts please stand up?