Gullane, Scotland – Miguel Angel Jiménez sees no reason why he can't win a major championship at age 49.
The fun-loving Spaniard teed off Saturday at the British Open with a one-stroke lead, looking to take another step toward breaking Julius Boros' record as the oldest major champion.
Tiger Woods, playing in the next-to-last group, was among those chasing the leader, and he quickly pulled into a tie for the lead with a birdie at the second hole. One shot back were Lee Westwood, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, with first-round leader Zach Johnson and two-time major champion Angel Cabrera two strokes off the pace.
Boros was 48 when won the 1968 PGA Championship. Jiménez is trying to finish the job that eluded Tom Watson and Greg Norman, who in the last five years made serious challenges at winning golf's oldest major championship in their 50s.
I feel relaxed...I love what I'm doing. I play golf. I do this for a living.
- Miguel Angel Jiménez
"Why not?" asked Jiménez, whose was at 3-under 139 through two days. "There's two more rounds to go. You never know what's going to happen. I'm just going to have fun on the golf course. When I finish here, I'll have a glass of red wine later on. I'm just going to keep doing the same thing."
He was not exactly leading the conventional way, far down when it came to hitting fairways and greens. But no one ranked higher in scrambling for pars.
"Sometimes, it's not about making too many birdies," Jiménez said. "It's about not making bogeys. To play the golf course in this condition, that's one of the keys."
Again, it looked more like Southern California than Scotland on Saturday — sunny with temperatures climbing into the lower 70s — and there appeared to be more chances for scoring than the previous day. After only 11 of 153 golfers broke par in the second round, nine of the first 42 finishers in the third were in the red.
Sergio García and Richard Sterne both shot 68, while Shingo Katayama and Brent Snedeker turned in 69s. However, conditions usually get tougher in the afternoon, after the wind picks up and the greens slicken.
The tournament was still wide open, especially given the devilish setup that turned it into a test of patience and resilience. Rock-hard greens — the product of the unseasonably dry weather in recent weeks — and tough pin placements provided a stout defense to the world's best golfers.
In all, 22 golfers went into Saturday within five shots of the lead, including such imposing figures as Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson — major champions all.
Jiménez can't wait for the challenge.
"I feel relaxed," he said. "I love what I'm doing. I play golf. I do this for a living."
Nicknamed "The Mechanic," Jiménez is a Ryder Cup stalwart and longtime contender in majors, but he's perhaps best known for his appearance — a frizzed-out ponytail and bulging belly — and the one-of-a-kind way he gets ready for a round.
Upon arriving at the range, he'll put his knees together and gyrate his hips both clockwise and counterclockwise, a move that straddles the line between provocative and downright ridiculous. Then he'll pull out a couple of clubs to help stretch his legs and loosen up his arms, though none of it looks very strenuous.
"I'm amused by his warm-up routine," Mickelson said. "I would hurry to the course to watch it."
But this guy is all business out on the course.