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Magic Miguel captures Senior Open crown over Old Course

July 30 2018

One of global golf’s most loved and colourful characters clinched the first-ever Senior Open, presented by Rolex, at the Home of Golf.

With a three-shot lead entering the final stretch, the hugely popular Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is affectionately known as the “Mechanic”, seemed to be on a seemingly unrelenting procession to clinch the Senior crown.

However, as is so often the case on the Old Course the final stretch on the historic Links provided a stern test and required plenty of nerve with Jimenez holing a crucial 10-foot par putt on 17. As his putt dropped his closest challenger, the timeless Bernhard Langer, made a rare mistake; over cooking his approach to the final green and ending his chances of catching his former Ryder Cup colleague.

With only the 18th hole to negotiate, the 54-year-old, who won his first Senior major earlier this year at the Regions Tradition event in May, enjoyed the acclaim of the crowds and unique feeling of claiming victory at the Home of Golf with a routine par to complete a three-under 69 and win by a shot with a 12-under-par aggregate of 276.

Having lit his victory cigar Jimenez smiled at the suggestion his replica claret jug may become the rioja jug for the next 12 months and was clearly emotional at having followed in the footsteps of his close friend and compatriot, Seve Ballesteros, who famously lifted The Open Championship trophy at the Old Course in 1984. 

“St Andrews is the place many people want to win, it is the Home of Golf, and after Seve played well here in the Open it’s amazing to know my name is now part of history,” he explained. “This is one of my biggest victories and Seve was a real inspiration throughout the years, what he did. When he won here I was 20 and serving 15 months National Service in the army. There are no words to describe what I feel. To get my hands on this trophy in front of the fans and my friends and family is truly amazing. All titles are very important, but a major, the Senior Open, is even more special.” 

Jimenez also paid tribute to the runner-up for the gracious manner in which Langer accepted defeat after going so close to capturing a record fourth Senior Open title. Langer, also runner-up to Ballesteros in 1984, waited at the 18th green to congratulate Jimenez, epitomising the camaraderie and warmth shared by so many of the players with their fellow competitors and spectators all week. The champion added: “He finished in the group in front of me and it is nice. He’s a top player and a top-class person.”

The final day offered a testing challenge as the field were battered with heavy rain and wind, which provided a stern test for the field before it eventually subsided as the leaders reached the back nine. By that time Langer had mounted a charge and was in position to make St Andrews and Senior Open history with a record 4th win. 

"I was pretty happy overall. It wasn't easy in some of the conditions that we had,” reflected Langer, who closed with a 4-under 68.  “I was 4-under after six and I hit it to about four feet or five feet on seven and missed that putt. That kind of shocked me a little bit because I was putting great up until that point. If I had made one more birdie somewhere, I would have been right there. But Miguel played an awesome four days of golf, and he’s a very well-deserved winner.”

In a field full of golfing greats, some of the loudest cheers were reserved for one of Links golf all-time greats; Tom Watson. The 68-year-old from Kansas did not disappoint, giving the crowds plenty to cheer for, not least when he holed an eagle putt on the 5th to hit the top of the leaderboard on Saturday afternoon.
Sadly he could not maintain his momentum and there was ultimate disappointment playing what could be his final competitive round at the Home of Golf, as the five time Open champion and three times Senior Open winner recorded a closing 77. 

As he approached the 17th green the ever-affable Watson joked to the crowd about his errant approach that landed on the famous road behind the green, “You can’t cheer that; that was a terrible shot!” And as he crossed the Swilcan Bridge in the competitive theatre he has called home for 50-years he was afforded a rousing send-off. 

"As ever, the fans were really very good to me,'' Watson said. "I gave it right back to them. I appreciate what they do for me. This is a unique setting in golf, probably the most unique. You come into the town on the last hole and finish amongst all the buildings with the people hanging over the rail up there. There's no other place like it."

In the build up to the event, the Senior Open promised “Old Course, New Memories” and for the thousands in attendance over the week the famous cast of Watson, Montgomerie, Langer, McCarron, Triplett, Daly and new Champion Jimenez more than delivered on their promise, providing another great chapter and worthy addition to the Champion’s Roll at the world’s most famous Links.
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