Jimenez Snatches Turespana Mallorca Classic from Compatriot Olazabal
Miguel Angel Jiménez captured the inaugural Turespaña Mallorca Classic by one shot from his compatriot José Maria Olazábal after an intense finish at the 18th green allowed Jiménez, who fired a flawless final round 65, to take the title.
Jiménez picked up the first prize of €66,660 at the Dual Ranking event by making up a five shot deficit on the field – the biggest final round comeback by a winner on The European Tour in 2003.
The crowds at Pula Golf Club were treated to a nailbiting climax after Olazábal – playing in the last group with Damien McGrane and David Park – put his tee shot out of bounds on the 17th and made double bogey – making him the joint leader with Jiménez with the tough par three 18th to play.
He found the green at the last, but his awkward position meant he had to chip instead of putt the ball over the slope on the green and left himself a tricky 12 foot putt coming back towards the hole, a putt that he had to watch slide agonisingly wide of the cup.
That handed Jiménez the trophy and his seventh European Tour International Schedule victory in his 350th Tour event. His last victory came four years ago at the Volvo Masters and he was delighted, as well as surprised to take first place.
“I’m obviously very happy to have won,” he said after moving into the top 25 of the Volvo Order of Merit with €723,601. “But it was a surprise to me. I had finished my round and gone and had a shower and gotten changed because Olazábal was eight under at one point had been solid all week.
“But after I had changed into my jeans, the Tournament Director told me of the situation and I went to get ready for a play-off. I thought there would at least be a play-off but that is golf for you.
“It feels great to have won again – my last win was at the Volvo Masters back in 1999 and it is nice to have done it in front of a Spanish crowd in Mallorca.
“I had good feelings all day long. I didn’t feel that good at the beginning of the week but yesterday on the driving range I felt good and then on the putting green as well. Then, this morning, I spent a bit of time analysing my swing in front of the mirror and getting things right.
“I think the difference in my form recently has all been down to attitude on the course. Sometimes we have to realise that we are only human, and human beings miss putts and fairways and there’s nothing we can do about that. You can’t put pressure on yourself all day long.
“I knew that I could hit the ball well, but my attitude towards my own game has changed. I feel at ease, relaxed and comfortable on the course now.”
While there was jubilation for the 39 year old Jiménez, his old friend Olazábal was disappointed after dropping three shots in the last two holes to fall back into second position.
“Just imagine how I feel right now,” he said. “The tournament was mine when I was standing on the 17th tee but I just didn’t know how to catch it. I wanted to play my tee shot on 17 open, to the left but I over cut it and it went out of bounds.
“Then 18 was very difficult. I hit a three iron, pin high but to the right and when I got to the ball I couldn’t putt it, so I had to play a chip up but missed the putt coming back.”
Englishmen Jamie Spence and Gary Emerson finished tied for third place on four under par 206, with Paul Broadhurst, Benn Barham, James Hepworth, Simon Kahn and Tomas Jesus Munoz in joint fifth on three under.
Spence looks to have done enough to secure his European Tour Card for 2004 after picking up a cheque for €22,520 that moves him to 100th position on the Volvo Order of Merit.
“What a relief that is,” he said after his third round 69. “That was the most pressure I’ve played under in my career.”
Challenge Tour player Hepworth, meanwhile, banked €12,384 and shot from 16 position to eighth on the Challenge Tour Rankings – and feels he has now done enough to guarantee his playing privileges on The European Tour International Schedule 2004.
“What a feeling this is,” said the 28 year old. “I think I’ve done enough to get my card now, and I can go to the Challenge Tour Grand Final and afford to relax a little bit!”
The day belonged to Jiménez, however, who picked up his fourth European Tour victory on Spanish soil, with his last three wins – the 1999 Turespaña Masters Open Andalucia, the 1999 Volvo Masters Andalucia and now the Turespaña Mallorca Classic 2003 all captured in his native land.