Jimenez victorious in Dubai play-off
Evergreen Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez has won a three-hole play-off against Lee Westwood at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Evergreen Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez courageously edged out European number one Lee Westwood at the third play-off hole to win the Dubai Desert Classic following a thrilling see-saw final day at the Emirates Golf Club.
The flamboyant 46-year-old appeared to be out of the title race on the first two play-off holes and saw Westwood miss two championship putts after the pair had topped the leaderboard at 11 under par, a shot clear of Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.
Jimenez narrowly missed the water at the first extra hole and holed out from 12 feet to keep his bid alive on the second. He then held his nerve from four feet in near darkness at the third time of asking after seeing Westwood miss from inside six feet.
The Spaniard, a two-time runner-up at this event, said: “All week I’ve been playing strong with a strong mind and with good support from my caddie.
“I have been coming to Dubai for many years and had a few chances to win and now I have it, I feel very pleased and very happy.”
Jimenez has now claimed nine of his 16 European Tour titles in his 40s, and is the oldest player to win on the circuit since Mark O’Meara prevailed in Dubai in 2004 at the age of 47.
“Like a good wine, with age, I get better and better,” said Jimenez, who last tasted success at the 2008 BMW PGA Championship.
“I feel comfortable on the golf course – that is key. I am not 25 or 30, I have just turned 46 but I’m still healthy and still strong. Not like I was when I was 25, but still strong and I can still play the ball. And if I feel happy and can focus, then you can win.”
Westwood birdied the last to earn his place in the play-off after letting slip a two-shot lead early in the final round, and the Worksop man’s aggressive approach into both opening play-off holes set up chances for a win which would have lifted him to third in the world.
But after missing a 10-foot birdie putt after Jimenez was an inch from finding water, Westwood left an 18-foot chance just short with the Spaniard again seemingly out of contention after finding rough off the tee and sand with his approach.
Westwood then failed to convert his par putt at the third extra hole to allow Jimenez to take his chance to claim a victory which will see him rise to just outside the world’s top 30.
“The writing was on the wall. Miguel plugs in the front, 99 times out of a 100 that goes back in the water,” said Westwood following his 13th top 10 finish in 16 events.
“And he’s also one of the best bunker players on tour. He still plays one of his poor bunker shots, but holes out to stay in it. That’s one of those things, play-offs can be like that.”
Asian number one Thongchai (73) was forced to settle for third after missing a two-foot birdie chance at the last, with Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer (70) and Challenge Tour number one Edoardo Molinari (71) fourth at nine under par.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy (73) produced a valiant title defence to share sixth three shots off the pace alongside Alvaro Quiros (75) after the Spaniard bogeyed the last, finding water when he needed an eagle to earn his place in the play-off.
Gregory Bourdy (68), 2007 champion Henrik Stenson (68) and 60-year-old eight-time major winner Tom Watson (68) completed the top 10 at six under par.
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