Miguel Ángel Jiménez: ‘I love to compete with the best … with modern golf’

Miguel Ángel Jiménez has no interest in altering the perception of him and dealing with the surprise that continues to surround the ability of this rich-living 51-year-old to compete in serious golf events.

Jiménez would never be pinpointed as one of his sport’s fine athletes. And yet results tell a positive story: since the start of 2006, in the supposed autumn of his career, the Spaniard has finished in the top 13 in at least one major per season.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014, he won European Tour events. Earlier this year, Jiménez set a European Tour record for holes in one, having notched two in as many weeks. He is ranked inside the top 10 on the European Tour’s order of merit and top 50 in the world. Any element of external shock over this is met with a shrug.

“I don’t know what people think but what I love to do is what I am doing now,” Jiménez explains. “I love to compete with the best, I love to compete with modern golf.

“My game is not as powerful as the new generation but I still can control the ball, I still can play the game. I still like to test myself against them. I love what I do. When Thursday comes and I am competing against them, that is what I want to do. That has never changed.”

One battle Jiménez lost was when seeking to become Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for the trip to Hazeltine next year. Darren Clarke beat him and Thomas Bjorn to the role. “No, no,” insists Jiménez when asked if he was wounded by that scenario. “I have a lot of respect for Darren, who will do a great job there.

“It was fine. I have a lot of respect for the decision made. It is not as if we are fighting against people there. I said to Darren: ‘You have all my support, for everything you will do at the Ryder Cup’. I told Darren if there was anything at all he needed, I am here.”

Jiménez offers a firm “yes, of course” when asked if he will again set his sights on the captaincy for the 2018 Ryder Cup in France. He is similarly forceful on the topic of captains from continental Europe being a necessity.

“It is important that the captain has a good connection with the players,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where you are from. British, Irish, continental Europe, what is the difference? We are European people and you need to connect with others.” And understand some of golf’s dark arts: Jiménez indulged in some of them during a row with Keegan Bradley at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in May. Bradley later admitted he was “schooled” by the wise Spaniard. “He got under my skin,” added the American. Jiménez won the match, just as he had earlier thumped Bubba Watson 5&4.

Jiménez is a clear example of how modern-day equipment can add longevity to a golfer’s career. However, this isn’t an exact science, otherwise every player over 50 would still be a threat and capable of finishing fourth in the Masters, just as Jiménez did in 2014.

“The help is unbelievable,” he concedes. “The ball is harder, the ball is going far longer than 20 years ago. Even for myself, I can hit it far longer than 15 years ago and I’m 51 now. Golf courses are lengthening and lengthening but we need to find other ways to make the game difficult. We should have target golf, not only power golf. You need to prepare the golf course more as a target, not for power.”

Jiménez is hardly slowing down. Last weekend at the Nordea Masters he teed up for a fourth week in succession. There were two second-placed finishes in that run. A brief hiatus will be followed by an appearance at next week’s US Open before the man from Málaga heads immediately to its senior equivalent. He has already won twice on the Champions Tour, including in January.

“It is difficult to combine both Tours because it means a lot of travel, mainly, and the golf courses can be very different in America to Europe. But it comes, age comes, 50 comes,” Jiménez says. “It has probably come too early for me but I don’t want to let the European Tour down because I feel like I am still competitive there. And I want to play. With the seniors, I want to see a lot of people who I haven’t met for a long time; it is very competitive there.

“It is a little more friendly, perhaps. But it is still competitive; we compete, that is what we do. That is what we love to do.”

Jiménez will not win at Chambers Bay – the US Open is the major he retains the worst record at, having made five cuts in 12 appearances – but this presents the latest opportunity for his talented compatriot Sergio García to end his major drought. Four of the past five US Opens have been won by Europeans But can García eventually claim one? “I think so,” says Jiménez. “He is a great player. He has been close to that major several times but this seems like his time. Phil Mickelson hadn’t won majors until quite late and then won a few of them.”

Never mind Mickelson, a veritable pup at 44; if anyone knows a thing or two about profiting when all forms of logic point to the contrary, it is Jiménez.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez is an ambassador for polarised Hawaiian sunglasses brand Maui Jim, official eyewear supplier of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray, for The Guardian on Thursday 11th June 2015 14.55 Europe/London

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