Miguel Angel Jimenez is on a busman’s holiday. He planned to take a month off after the Masters Tournament to do other things, like get married.
But Jimenez, like so many golfers, simply couldn’t resist the temptation of teeing it up again on a golf course he knew and liked. So he squeezed in another tournament – and another week on the road, one of about 30 each year for the world traveler from Spain.
There was nothing to suggest that Jimenez would not enjoy himself at TPC Sugarloaf where he made his Champions Tour debut Friday at the Greater Gwinnett Championship. On the contrary, everything pointed thumbs-up after a fourth-place finish at the Masters Tournament. The form Jimenez flashed at Augusta National Golf Club is the same he put on display at TPC Sugarloaf.
On a rain-soaked day, the kind he would never imagine experiencing in his native Malaga, Jimenez opened with a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 to lead by three shots over three players – Steve Pate, Bernhard Langer and Kenny Perry. Jimenez made five birdies and an eagle 3 at the par 5 18th hole (his ninth) the first time he teed it up on the Champions Tour.
“What do you want me to say?” Jimenez said. “I love it.”
Jimenez is getting the lion’s share of the attention at TPC Sugarloaf, and rightfully so.
“I love watching him,” Pate said. “I’m glad he’s come out and playing our events.”
Perry said, “I figured he’d have more of a letdown.”
“This tour is so much more laid back and relaxed,” Perry said. “The atmosphere is so much different. I actually didn’t know what he’d do today. Honestly didn’t think he’d shoot 65. Amazing man. Great player. Fun to watch. He always gives me cigars to give to my dad. Some of the biggest cigars ever seen in my life.”
The fifth of five sons, Jimenez is essentially self-taught. He learned from his older brothers, including Juan.
“He was a good player,” Jimenez said. “Never play on the tour but he was quite good. I teach myself a lot, yeah. I look at my brother all the time, whatever I need to make, to control the swing.”
When Jimenez does consult with a swing guru, it’s “never to go into big things."
“I don’t let anyone come into big things,” he said. “Just only the feeling, the contour (shape) of the ball is not working properly, the ball is starting too far right, then what happened? Maybe the ball too far back, maybe too far forward, see the flight of the ball, tell you everything and you have to work with that.”
In other words, it’s about seeing and feeling what he does with the golf swing. It’s not overhauling the engine. It’s about fine-tuning it.
Jimenez is known affectionately as The Mechanic for his affinity for fine, fast cars. The Mechanic also comes from his days working in a garage.
“The garage closed,” Jimenez said. “I went to the golf course working there on the driving range.”
Jimenez went from repairing drives to hitting them, then from driving balls to driving Ferraris, which were paid for by hitting balls – and his earnings from professional victories on the European and Asian tours. The Greater Gwinnett Championship would be victory No. 21 world-wide. Jimenez expects more wins before he’s finished because, he said, “the last 15 years (are) probably the best golf of my life.”
It is little more than a coincidence that Jimenez is playing here this week. He had scheduled a month off for, among other things, exchanging marriage vows with Susanne Stylbo on May 3. They met in Stylbo’s hometown of Vienna, Austria, where Jimenez now lives when he’s not playing on the PGA TOUR or the European Tour.
When Jimenez, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Jan. 5, discovered that the Champions Tour was in suburban Atlanta the week after the Masters, it clicked. He could, with very little effort or travel, investigate the Champions Tour and see what it holds for him in the future.
On Friday at TPC Sugarloaf, he found out. It has every opportunity to be lucrative and a lot of fun for a man who isn’t about to do anything that doesn’t make him happy. When it was over, and the rain gear had been peeled off, Jimenez was trending toward his element.
“Time for a nice warm shower, a nice fat cigar,” he said.