Miguel Angel Jimenez tonight celebrated becoming the European Tour’s oldest-ever winner – after a week which could have seen him fall outside the world’s top 100 for the first time in nine years.
With a cigar in one hand and glass of red wine in the other, the 48-year-old Spaniard toasted a one-stroke victory over Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Jimenez is only five weeks away from his 49th birthday, but he did not have a single bogey in the last three rounds and closed with a superb 65 for his third win at the event – all since he turned 40.
“It’s always an honour to make records and I hope it’s not the last one,” said the Malaga golfer, nine months older than Ireland’s Des Smyth was when he lifted the 2001 Madeira Islands Open.
“I really love this place. You have to control the ball very well – it’s not a matter of distance – and I played very solid all through the week.”
With 19 Tour victories now there are only 10 players who have ever won more on the circuit than the former caddie, who turned professional in 1982 and had to wait a decade for his first success.
He was Seve Ballesteros’s vice-captain at the 1997 Ryder Cup, went on to win four caps and in September was one of Jose Maria Olazabal’s assistants for the victory in Chicago.
New Zealander Michael Campbell was joint overnight leader with Jimenez and was hoping for a first win in seven years, but after an opening birdie he fell back and a double bogey six on the 18th for a 72 dropped him to joint eighth.
Andersson Hed came through with a 64, but was left thinking what might have been after his 12-foot birdie attempt at the last trickled down the slope, curled left just before the hole and lipped out.
It meant Jimenez’s eight closing pars were good enough to give him the £208,084 first prize with a 15 under par aggregate of 265. He has almost £16million in career earnings as a result.
He birdied the long third, then took control with four more in a row from the seventh.
The third of them was the most impressive, a five-wood approach to Fanling’s hardest hole finishing only two feet from the flag.
Third place went to Australian Marcus Fraser, while joint fourth were Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, Scot Stephen Gallacher and 19-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero.
A week on from his third Tour victory at the Singapore Open Manassero was right in the thick of things until a six at the long 13th and he dropped another shot at the last to finish four back.
The event also brought joy and agony for those fighting to keep their Tour cards.
The agony belonged to Welshman Rhys Davies, who had to stay 119th on the money list to avoid a return to the qualifying school, but came only 51st and slipped to 120th when Australian Andrew Dodt, having dropped five shots on the front nine, birdied three of the last six.
It lifted Dodt from 122nd to 117th, put England’s Richard Bland 118th and South African Tjaart Van der Walt 119th a mere £83 ahead of Davies.
Bland, who came 69th, and Van der Walt, who missed the cut, were not safe, though. There was still the South African Open to come later in the day before the issue was decided.