The Irish Mail on Sunday
Jimenez losing his grip with title in sight
WORLD number 690 Thomas Pieters will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Spanish Open after home favourite Miguel Angel Jimenez’s charge faltered yesterday.
Jimenez surged two clear of the field in Girona thanks to six birdies in his opening 13 holes at PGA Catalunya, but bogeyed the 15th and 18th to card a third round of 69.
That left the 50-year-old, who was fourth in the Masters last month and then won on his Champions Tour debut seven days later, on five-under-par and allowed overnight leader Pieters to reclaim top spot with birdies at the 15th and 16th in a round of 71.
‘I’m a little disappointed with that,’ admitted Jimenez, who has no plans to switch to the seniors circuit as he chases a fifth Ryder Cup appearance at Gleneagles in September.
‘I didn’t hit it very well the last few holes. I played very well the first nine holes and was solid until the 14th but made a bad bogey on the 15th where I threeputted from eight metres and also bogeyed the last.’
Jimenez is already the oldest winner in European Tour history, beating his own record by winning the Hong Kong Open for a record fourth time at the age of 49 years and 337 days last December.
But despite 20 tournament victories to his credit the world number 34 has never won his national open and added: ‘It would be nice. I’d love to win the Spanish Open of course and we’ll see what happens.’
Meanwhile, the European Tour has apologised to the Caddies Association for the ‘hurt and upset’ caused following the sudden death of bagman Iain ‘Mac’ McGregor at the Madeira Islands Open last Sunday.
The tour has been criticised for continuing with the Madeira event after the 52-year-old Zimbabwean, caddying for Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth, died of a heart attack during the final round.
The tournament was briefly halted but then resumed after discussions with players and bagmen. Tour chief executive George O’Grady travelled to Girona to hold talks with the Caddies Association in a meeting that was also attended by Players Tournament Commit- tee chairman Thomas Bjorn.
‘We had a full and frank meeting with (Association) chairman Gerry Byrne and his committee, a meeting which was understandably emotional at times and one during which I apologised to them for the hurt and upset caused by events in Madeira,’ O’Grady said in a statement.
‘I completely understand the views of people who say we should not have carried on but it was a terrible situation for anyone to be in and the decision to finish the tournament was not taken lightly, either by myself or by the tournament officials on the ground.
‘However, that decision is in the past and the important thing now is we continue to work with Mac’s family and friends – as we have done from Sunday – to assist with arrangements surrounding the funeral,’ said O’Grady.
‘I have also personally instructed a review of how we deal, operationally, at tournaments with situations such as this so we can ensure the lessons of Madeira are learned.’