Jimenez looking to make more history in Hong Kong
Spaniard became oldest winner in European Tour history with win at Fanling last year
Miguel Angel Jimenez during the pro-am in Hong Kong. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Veteran Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez will have yet more history in his sights when he defends his Hong Kong Open title in Fanling this week.
Jimenez can join Hsieh Yung-yo of Taiwan as a four-time winner of the event after previous victories in 2005, 2008 and 2012, the latter seeing him become the oldest winner in European Tour history aged 48 years and 318 days.
A broken leg suffered in a skiing accident shortly after that win — a remarkable 12th since turning 40 — raised concerns for Jimenez’s career, but the former Ryder Cup player enjoyed another superb season in 2013, finishing 22nd on the Race to Dubai and missing just three cuts.
His 50th birthday is only a month away, but Jimenez shows no signs of using that to his advantage by switching to the Seniors Tour, preferring to keep taking on the younger generation — many of whom were not even born when he turned professional in 1982.
“I came here for the first time in 2004 (at the beginning of the 2005 season) and won. I love the city and I especially like the golf course,” Jimenez said.
“The history of the golf club makes it very special and the people always make us feel very welcome. It was an honour to win here last year and create a new European Tour record, and of course it would be fantastic to win it for a fourth time.”
The event, which will see Ireland’ s Peter Lawrie, Kevin Phelan and David Higgins competing, could also help Richard Finch regain his full playing privileges after a superb second place in the Alfred Dunhill Championship last week.
Finch was playing on a sponsor’s invitation at Leopard Creek having lost his card at the end of 2013, but made the most of it by pushing eventual winner Charl Schwartzel hard in the final round before the former Masters champion pulled away to successfully defend his title.
“It was nice to get back in an upward direction,” said Finch, who won both of his two European Tour titles in 2008, including the Irish Open at Adare Manor. “I had an invitation for the South African Open and for the Alfred Dunhill Championship, which were much appreciated and a big help when you’re in the situation I’m in. It was great to have a good week at Leopard Creek.
“It was a busy end to the 2013 season and then I had the Qualifying School and after that I flew straight to South Africa the following week, so although we’re now in a different season, there’s not been any time to reflect or review.
“I had a top 10 in the last event I played in 2013, in Perth, and that gave me a bit of promise and confidence that there might be some better results coming. I wouldn’t have said going into last week that I was hugely confident or was doing anything differently, but I managed to get a bit of momentum and then was able to keep it going.”
Having already banked more than €170,000, Finch has gone a long way to securing a place in the top 110 on the money list by the end of the season.
But the 36-year-old knows he must still make the most of his limited playing opportunities.
“I still need quite a bit more to secure my card for 2015, so this year I’ll obviously play anything my ranking gets me into and hope for an invite or two,” he added. “And I was also planning to play on the Challenge Tour, so I’ll just have to see what and when and how.
“But I’ve had a lovely start, a big step in the right direction and hopefully I can keep it going and get back to playing full time on The European Tour.”
Also in the field at Fanling are teenage Chinese stars Jason Hak and Guan Tianlang. In 2008 Hak became the youngest player ever to make the cut at a European Tour event, a record Guan broke at this year’s US Masters aged just 14 years and 169 days.