Jimenez looking forward to return to action in Valencia
Spanish golfer back on tour after breaking leg in skiing accident
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez in action during the pro-am for the Spanish Open at Parador de El Salerin Valencia. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Miguel Angel Jimenez will put his recovery from a broken leg to the test on his return to action at the Spanish Open in Valencia tomorrow.
Jimenez, who surpassed Ireland’s Des Smyth as the oldest winner on the European Tour when he lifted the Hong Kong Open aged 48 years and 318 days last November, suffered the injury a month later while skiing near his home in Malaga.
“My leg is improving daily,” the 49-year-old told reporters. “I work out every morning in the gym and I’m actually a little ahead of schedule on my rehab. I am not 100 per cent fit, but I want to test myself and see how I feel.
“I can’t wait to be back on Tour with my friends and I’d hate to miss the chance of playing at El Saler.”
Jimenez made his tour debut in the Spanish Open 30 years ago and will be making his 599th career appearance this week.
“Javier Arana’s wonderful design blends beautifully with its natural surroundings, both in the pine trees area and in the dunes area. For me it’s the best course in Spain and I love all the holes,” Jimenez added.
“It’s a beautiful layout with a strong finish; the 17th is a good par three towards the dunes and the 18th is spectacular. Once you play at El Saler you get hooked. It’s such an enjoyable course that you keep wanting to come back.
“I have many fond memories of El Saler. We used to play many tournaments in the 80s and I won an Under-25 event in 1986. We also played two or three Campeonatos de Levante, and later on a few European Tour events. The last I played was the 2003 Seve Trophy.”
This week’s event is the only tournament in Spain in 2013 due to the financial crisis, but has attracted a strong local contingent, including Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who finished eighth and 20th respectively in the Masters last week.
“I am delighted to be in Valencia, obviously tired coming straight from Augusta but happy to be in Spain,” Fernandez-Castano said.
“El Saler is an indescribable course, there aren’t many left like it, a work of art that must be kept and cared for as if it were a Goya or a Picasso. Hopefully we will get some wind, which is its main defence, to add to the spectacle.
“I’m happy with my game the last few weeks. I am bittersweet about the Masters because I feel I could have done better, although I was there over the weekend and I played with Tiger (Woods) on Saturday. I had already played with him, but Augusta made it more special.
“It’s a shame that we have only one event in Spain this year, and that’s the reason why I am here. Had it been a different tournament, I would have taken a break, but it’s my national Open.”
Shane Lowry returns from his sojourn in America to play his first European Tour event since the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of February.
The Clara man is one of six Irish golfers in the field, with David Higgins, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie, Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin also taking part in the first Tour event to be played in Europe this season.