x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Miguel Angel Jimenez ready to play with the 'young guns'

The Spanish veteran is back to playing his best after Hong Kong win and is now targeting the next Ryder Cup.

Miguel Angel Jimenez enjoyed the Pro-AM. Jeff Topping / The National
Miguel Angel Jimenez enjoyed the Pro-AM. Jeff Topping / The National

DUBAI // For Miguel Angel Jimenez perhaps an amble through the DP World Tour Championship Pro Am is much like wander along the promenade of some familiar city that meets the Mediterranean.

The affable Spaniard could be found yesterday guiding a group of amateurs around the Earth Course, seemingly blissfully unaware there is an US$8 million (Dh29.3m) tournament to play for this week.

His usually colourful attire was dulled somewhat by a plain white T-shirt, black slacks and white shoes - the spats presumably saved for tomorrow's opening round - but the signature Havana was still being puffed profusely. The cool facade is no smoke and mirrors.

Not even a cry of "Fore!" would shock Jimenez from his dawdle up 18, the game's grand schemer simply raising aloft his white glove as if to say "no problem".

Despite his creeping years, Jimenez is not prepared to raise the white flag, either. On Sunday, the 48 year old became the oldest winner in European Tour history by scooping the Hong Kong Open trophy.

In a week when Rory McIlroy reinforces golf's bright new future, Jimenez offers a reminder not to forget one of its elder statesmen.

"This win is very nice," he said upon securing a 19th career title. "I hope it's not the last one."

An assistant to Jose Maria Olazabal at last month's Ryder Cup, Jimenez is already planning a larger contribution to Europe's title defence at Gleneagles in two years' time - as a player. Only last month, that would have seemed rather optimistic.

Four top 10s in 2012 suggested Jimenez was slowing, given 2010 supplied a trio of victories - he emerged from a play-off with Lee Westwood to collect the Dubai Desert Classic - and last year offered three runner-up finishes.

Yet a late season win confirms the sun has still not set on a remarkable career. His longevity owes much to his loose lifestyle.

"The most important thing is I do what I like in my life, and golf has given me all this pleasure," he said. "I still love it and that is fantastic: to love what you're doing, to enjoy yourself, keep fit, keep working a little bit and stretching a lot. That's the main thing to do to compete with the new guns."

Perhaps the pre-range routine that enriched last year's British Open will add a few lunges, as golf's boys' brigade continues to swell. McIlroy, 23, will no doubt enjoy future battles with Matteo Manassero, the 19 year old who lifted a third trophy two weeks ago with his Singapore Open win, or Ryo Ishikawa, the Japanese 21 year old who recently prospered on his home tour.

However, amid the fresh faces and the eager eyes, Jimenez continues taking everything in his lazy stride, proving there is life yet in the game's coolest cat.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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