On the Cover:
Unorthodox in every aspect of his professional life, Miguel Ángel Jiménez is the man of the hour almost anywhere he goes, especially in golf circles. The 53-year-old Spaniard enjoys cigars, wine and winning golf tournaments, not necessarily in that order.
53-year-old Miguel Ángel Jiménez enjoys cigars, wine and winning golf tournaments, not necessarily in that order. The world’s most interesting golfer talks to our Editor about every aspect of his professional life.
When did you start playing and where?
I started playing golf in my teenage years at Torrequebrada Golf Club near Malaga in Spain. My eldest brother, Juan, was working as the Pro there and I used to go along and earn some money by collecting golf balls and doing some caddying. When I had a chance, I used to hit a few shots and watch the Professionals play tournaments as much as possible, and it was this that inspired me and made me realise I wanted to be like them and travel the world as a Professional Golfer.
Do you have a favourite course?
I have a number of courses I love around the world for different reasons. For example, my favourite course in Spain is El Saler, which is an amazing course along the Mediterranean coast near Valencia and I like Royal Birkdale very much, where we have played The Open over the years. I also have favourite courses where I have very special memories of winning and Hong Kong Golf Club is certainly one of those. It is a great golf course, fun and challenging to play and has one of the best (if not, the best) clubhouse we visit on Tour!
What’s been your best round?
I have shot low rounds in tournaments but sometimes they are not the most memorable rounds. What I mean is that a very memorable round could be one where, perhaps I have been a long way behind the leader on the Sunday of a tournament and played a great round of golf to win. Sometimes a memorable round could be one where the weather is terrible, playing conditions are very tough and I have shot a level par round, when other players are shooting over par scores. This can be a great round too.
What’s your secret in keeping competitive after age 50?
I still work very hard. I practise and I train in the gym. Although I have been almost 30 years on Tour, it’s as important as ever to put in the hard work in order to give myself the best chance of playing well. I play a lot of tournaments these days on the PGA TOUR Champions for the over50s and this is a very competitive Tour. All the Pros have achieved a great deal in their careers and it is tough to win on this Tour. But I still love the competition and the feeling I get as I walk on to the 1st tee in a tournament. I am still hungry to win every week.
You have spent half of your life playing on the Tour. You have played on all kinds of golf courses. Which style do you identify more with?
I wouldn’t say that I identify with any style in particular, although I enjoy links golf very much. As Professional Golfers playing in so many countries around the world we have to be very adaptable to all styles, whether it be links, parkland, desert and resort-type courses, for example, and all of these create different challenges.
Do you think winning on the Tour is about experience or power these days?
Of course, if we are playing a very long golf course then the powerful hitters have a big advantage although it is incredibly important that your short game and putting is also in good shape. But as we know, so much of being successful in golf is dealing with the mental side of things and keeping your emotions in control on that Sunday afternoon in a tournament when you have a chance to win. That is when, I believe, that experience is so important.
Who’s your favourite playing partner at the Ryder Cup? And why?
I could not say that I had a favourite playing partner. I had the most successful results with José María Olazábal and with Padraig Harrington but all the matches I played
with different partners over the four years of playing Ryder Cup, were great experiences and something I will never forget. How well did you know Seve? What is your favourite Seve story? I was lucky enough to call Seve a close friend and he was certainly my greatest inspiration as a golfer. When I first started playing the European Tour in the 1980’s, Seve was this incredible guy we all admired and a member of a great group of Spanish golfers on Tour. We travelled together around Europe playing tournaments and enjoying amazing experiences and lots of stories. Then in 1997 Seve chose me as his Vice Captain at the Ryder Cup at Valderrama and it was an honour to work alongside the maestro. Yes, he was a special man and someone I miss a great deal. You have built a golf academy in your home town Malaga. How important it is to make golf more accessible nowadays? Thank you for giving me the chance to talk about the Miguel Angel Jimenez Golf Academy as it is something I am very proud of and somewhere I spend a great deal of time at when I am in Spain. I wanted to create a facility where families or individuals from all backgrounds could come to learn to play this amazing game at an affordable cost. We have a great 9-Hole Par-3 course, practice chipping and putting areas as well as a big driving range and a technical area too. There is a team of very experienced professional golfers on site to teach beginners (or more experienced players) of all ages and I am very happy to say we have a membership of over 100 kids and a very busy calendar of fun events. And you will not be surprised to hear that the food is an important feature of the Academy! We have a fantastic team running the restaurant offering typical Spanish food.
I also have a team running the Miguel Angel Jimenez Junior Circuit which is a year-long series of tournaments around Spain for children. Rather like the Tour, the children compete in events throughout the season and their results go towards an Order of Merit with the leading children competing in a Finale at the end of the year. It would be amazing to see a Champion of the future that started his or her golfing career on my Junior Circuit. But if not, I am sure they will learn many important life skills for the future and hopefully love the game of golf.
Tell us about your relationship with Audemars Piguet?
The fact that we have been together for 12 years already says a great deal about our relationship - it’s a special one. There is no question that the watches produced by Audemars Piguet are of the highest quality and luxury and who would not feel incredibly lucky to wear one, but most importantly the relationship we have now is one of friendship and loyalty, which means a great deal to me.
Which is your favourite AP model?
My favourite AP timepiece is usually the one I am wearing at the time which, at the moment, is the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in pink gold. Over the years that I have been an Ambassador of the Company I have been lucky enough to have many different models from the collection, for example, the Equation of Time personalized to my home in Malaga, Spain and the Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix.
Watchmaker and Golfer - any similarities?
I wish I had some of the watchmaker’s skills - those guys and girls are unbelievable. I have seen them working at the Manufacture in Le Brassus and their precision and patience is amazing. And, yes, as golfers we also require a great deal of precision in our skill in order to achieve the best result on the golf course and patience is certainly an important quality to have. Both watchmakers and golfers are constantly pushing themselves to become the very best they can be.
We all know that you love wine and cigars. Which are your favourites? And why?
In particular I love the wine of Vega Sicilia from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain and the Cohiba Siglo VI cigar from Cuba. I enjoy many different wines and cigars, but my preference would be wine from Spain and cigars from Cuba. It’s all about personal taste and they are my particular favourites.
Why do Tour players call you “The Mechanic”?
Before I become a professional golfer, I worked in a garage near my home in Malaga, Spain, although not as a mechanic. It may have started because people knew I used to do this, or because they know I love performance cars. Actually, I cannot remember when or why it began, but it seemed to stick!
From left to right: Seve Ballesteros talks with Jose Maria Olazabal and Jiménez as they walk down the 3rd fairway during the practice round for the 71st Masters in 2007
Jiménez celebrates winning the Hong Kong Open for a recordequalling fourth time (2004, 2004, 2012 & 2013) at Fanling in 2013
Jiménez visits the AP Manufacture in La Brassus