• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Jimenez & Ko prove age is no handicap

It truly is a pursuit for all the ages.

Lydia Ko of New Zealand holds up the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters
Lydia Ko of New Zealand holds up the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters

From the evergreen 49-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez to the 16-year-old Lydia Ko, with 42-year-old Thomas Bjorn getting in on the act for good measure, yesterday's global golf scene was more like an episode of the Generation Game.

In the Far East, a resurgent Jimenez extended his own record as the European Tour's oldest winner by retaining his Hong Kong Open title after a play-off with Stuart Manley and Prom Meesawat.

Meanwhile, Ko, the teenage New Zealander who had already won three main tour events as an amateur, made her mark in just her second start as a professional by winning the Swinging Skirts World Ladies' Masters in Taiwan.

Down in South Africa, Bjorn struck another blow for the old guard when he powered to a two-shot victory over Sergio Garcia and Jamie Donaldson in the Nedbank Golf Challenge with a sizzling 65. It was Jimenez who got the ball rolling on a super Sunday as he birdied the first extra hole with a superb putt from 18 feet to capture his 20th European Tour title just a few weeks before his 50th birthday.

"I love this place, I love this golf course, I love the tournament," said Jimenez, who signed for a closing 66 as he captured the event for a record fourth time on an eventful afternoon which saw Manley chip in on the last to barge his way into the three-man shoot-out.

With 13 victories since turning 40, Jimenez now has his sights set on becoming Europe's oldest Ryder Cup player next year. He reaches his half century on January 5 and would comfortably beat the record of Ted Ray - who was 50 years, two months and five days old at the inaugural contest in 1927 - if he can qualify for Gleneagles next September.

"If I play the way I am playing this week I will be in the Ryder Cup team," he insisted. "I would love to be part of the team again."

Bjorn, who beat Scotland's Craig Lee to the Omega European Masters crown in a play-off in September, also bolstered his Ryder Cup bid with a sparkling win in Sun City.

The Dane, who is tipped to become a future Ryder Cup captain, showed once again that he still has plenty to offer as a player as he packed a brace of eagles into a closing seven-under card to finish on a 20-under total.

It was Donaldson who led the way entering the final round, but Garcia came charging into contention with a streak of four birdies from the sixth.

Bjorn had stayed hot on their heels courtesy of three birdies before the turn and he upped the ante on the back nine with eagles at 10 and 14 which propelled him towards a 15th European Tour title.

"This is right up there with the best days of my career," said Bjorn who took home the biggest cheque of his career worth $1.25 million and moved to the top of the early Race to Dubai rankings.

"You never forget your first victory, and then my win against Tiger Woods in Dubai, when I went toe-to-toe with him for four days and came out top was special, but winning here in the way that I did against a field of this quality is up there."

On the women's front, Ko has not taken long to adapt to life as a professional golfer following her record-breaking escapades as an amateur and her victory yesterday will have silenced those doubters who questioned whether the schoolgirl would remain as prolific when money was on the line.

The young Kiwi produced a back-nine assault and closed with a three-under-par 69 to finish at 11-under, three shots ahead of former US Women's Open champion So Yeon Ryu and four clear of world No.1 Inbee Park.

Ko turned down close to $2m in prize money as an amateur, but the bank account is up and running now, having earned a first prize of $181,000 to add to the $20,000 she made for a top-25 finish in her first professional start last month.

Elsewhere, English 17-year-old Charley Hull, who starred for Europe in their Solheim Cup win over the US earlier this year, claimed the Ladies' European Tour's rookie of the year award after an eighth-place finish in the Omega Dubai Ladies' Masters.

Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum edged out world No.3 Stacy Lewis to the Dubai title by a shot with a 15-under tally. Scotland's Vikki Laing dropped from third to a share of fifth with a 76.

Contextual targeting label: 
Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

198960