Jimenez still aiming to play on Ryder Cup team

Spaniard expects to be named as a vice-captain but wants to play at Gleneagles

Miguel Angel Jimenez  celebrates  after winning the  Hong Kong Open in December. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images

Miguel Angel Jimenez celebrates after winning the Hong Kong Open in December. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images

Wed, Jan 8, 2014, 15:22

Miguel Angel Jimenez has revealed he is likely to be one of Paul McGinley’s vice-captains for the Ryder Cup – but only if he does not fulfil his ambition to play at Gleneagles instead.

Jimenez celebrated his 50th birthday on Sunday by travelling to Durban for this week’s Volvo Golf Champions, an event for which he qualified by successfully defending his Hong Kong Open title in December.

That play-off victory not only gave Jimenez his 20th European Tour win – 13 of them coming since he turned 40 – but also extended his own record as the oldest winner in Tour history and gave him a genuine chance to become Europe’s oldest Ryder Cup player as well; Ted Ray was 50 years, two months and five days old at the inaugural contest in 1927.

“If I play well I believe I will be on the team,” said Jimenez, whose last appearance as a player came at Celtic Manor in 2010. “It’s very difficult to maintain a high level, but if my game is there I will be there. It would mean a lot to me, it’s still breaking records.”

McGinley, who was a vice-captain alongside Jimenez for the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012, has said he will not name his assistants until May or June so he can have a better idea of how the team is shaping up.

But Jimenez added: “We had a few words and he wants me to be a captain in the EurAsia Cup (a team event between Asia and Europe in March). I’m going to do that and if I’m not on the Ryder Cup team, probably I will be helping him (at Gleneagles).

“But I am going to keep working hard on my game because I would like to be there with the clubs in the hands. If you are not playing well, you don’t want to be on the team, it’s a lot of responsibility. It means a lot to me and many players and you need to know that you are in good shape.”

Jimenez is now eligible for the Seniors Tour and has confirmed he will compete in the Senior British Open at Royal Porthcawl this summer, but has no intention of joining the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer on a full-time basis.

“I turned 50 but I look in the mirror and I see the same guy, he hasn’t changed,” added Jimenez, who admits he feared his career was over when he broke his leg in a skiing accident in December 2012.

“When I turned 40, I had five victories and it was the most successful year I’ve had. The golf I played at that moment was unbelievable. I still play very well, I still hit the same distance.

“I know that you cannot win every time, but I feel like I can be in contention and win tournaments because I’m still here. If I play well and the best I can do is 15th, then I can pack in golf. For me, coming on the Tour just to get a salary, it’s better to go home.

“The motivation and why I work, why I keep doing what I’m doing, it’s because I love to compete with the best and I want to win.”

The 36-man field at Durban Country Club is made up of the 30 tournament winners from last season and the first few events of the 2014 season, as well as 2012 champion Branden Grace and players who have 10 or more European Tour victories.

That list includes Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Robert Karlsson.

Simon Thornton and Michael Hoey are also included in the 36-man-field after victories in France and Russia respectively last year.

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