Jimenez in fast start

Miguel Angel Jimenez has taken control of second place, just one behind Thomas Bjorn halfway through day one of the Open.

One of the great characters of European golf, Miguel Angel Jimenez, has taken firm control of second place, just one behind Thomas Bjorn halfway through day one of the 140th Open.

This after shooting a bogey-free, four birdie first-round 66 at a never-easy-to-conquer Royal St George’s Kent-coast links course built more than a Century ago as England’s answer to Scotland’s St Andrews.

The 47-year-old cigar-puffing Spaniard has won 18 times on the European Tour with three of those victories coming in a prolific 2010 season, and he kept that sort of form together going as he cooly marched through a morning of fluctuating wind and rain.

“The wind was a little tricky, but I played solid all day,” he told the press corps afterwards.

“Any age can put themselves on the leaderboard at The Open. It is a very fair tournament. You need to put the ball in play and to have experience in the majors also helps,” he added.

Jimenez birdied the fourth and ninth holes in an outward nine of 33 and gained another shot at the short par-four 12th.

Then at the 426-yard downwind 17th he hit a second shot that raced past the pin and up a steep slope, but then rolled back down towards the hole to give him a relatively easy putt for his final birdie of the day.

The 18th looked as if it would ruin his spectacular card when his tee shot found heavy rough on the right, but he hammered the ball back into the fairway and spun his wedge approach back to two feet behind the flag for a safe, if not routine, par.

As a 15-year-old caddie Jimenez was inspired to take up the game after watching Seve Bellesteros and was appointed as a deputy when his compatriot was Ryder Cup captain in 1997.

He has played in four Ryder Cup matches and represented Spain 12 times in the World Cup.