Jimenez shoots 66 at Masters, moves into final-round contention
He likes a good cigar as much as he does a fine bottle of wine, though his days of actually smoking on the course are over. In a tournament where a lot of players look the same, Miguel Angel Jimenez can’t be missed with a ponytail sticking out in back and a gut in the front.
Add in a stretching routine that has made him a bit of an Internet sensation, and Jimenez may be the most interesting man playing Augusta National this weekend.
On Saturday he was also one of the best.
A week before making his debut on golf’s senior circuit, Jimenez shot a 6-under 66 Saturday to move toward the top of the leaderboard in the Masters. After an improbable round that included seven birdies against a lone bogey the Spaniard who has toiled mostly on the European Tour was at 3-under 213.
That not only left Jimenez within striking distance of the lead, but gave him some thoughts of winning the first major championship of his career at the age of 50.
”I have plenty of victories in my career and having a major in my career would be amazing,” Jimenez said. ”That would be the flower on top, to say so.”
In a tournament where the old guys are showing that they can still play – six players 50 or over made the cut – Jimenez separated himself from his fellow seniors in a round he wrapped up just as the leaders were teeing off.
Now the question becomes whether he can take advantage of his position on Sunday and become the oldest player ever to win a major. It’s not exactly new territory for Jimenez, who led the British Open by a shot last year before fading with a 77 in the third round.
”I will try to. I will try to,” Jimenez said. ”If I can play golf and control the ball, I have my chances.”
Playing in his 15th Masters, the man known as ”The Mechanic” because of his love of cars improved 10 shots from the 76 he shot in the second round. He did it with a back nine flurry of birdies marred only by a bogey on the par-3 12th when he took two shots to get out of the front bunker.
Jimenez credited a good short game and an abundance of patience with putting him at least within shouting range of the leaders.
”That’s the main thing that you have to take care of around here,” he said. ”Doesn’t matter how you play, you need to keep patience and keep always below the hole. That’s the only thing. The rest just happens.”
Jimenez has won 20 times on the European Tour in a career that began in 1988, and played on two Ryder Cup teams. He was an assistant captain on the 2012 European team that won in a huge comeback outside Chicago, and has his sights set on becoming the oldest Ryder Cup player if he can make the team later this year in Scotland.
Playing well at the Masters may help get him there, even if he can’t beat the odds by actually winning a green jacket. Jimenez won’t commit to playing any tournaments on the Champions Tour other than next week’s event down the road at Duluth, Ga., because he wants to make a Ryder Cup run.
”I have a chance to play the Ryder Cup, and I would love to play the Ryder Cup,” he said. ”If you put yourself to play in the European tour then and also the Champions tour, then you are by yourself and you don’t do nothing.”
Jimenez is ranked No. 40 in the world, though he is more widely known for his pre-round stretching routine and the cigars he likes to smoke. A video of Jimenez stretching went viral last year, something he found amusing as well.
He’s hardly a gym rat like many of the younger players, but it works for him.
”Sometimes I’m looking at myself on video and I’m laughing,” he said. ”It’s nice, it’s bueno. But you know what is the main thing, I never get injured.”