Europe’s Ryder Cup Team Members in Switzerland gave Captain Bernhard Langer plenty to smile about with all three players in action comfortably placed in the top echelons of the leaderboard in the Omega European Masters with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez leading the way after a six under par 65.
Jiménez is continuing to tap into the rich vein of form which has so far earned him four titles on The 2004 European Tour International Schedule including last week’s BMW International Open in Munich, his flawless round at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club taking him one clear of Ryder Cup team mate Sergio Garcia and Frenchman Marc Farry, Swede Peter Hedblom and England’s Peter Baker.
The third member of the Ryder Cup trio, Luke Donald is a further stroke back in the group on four under par 67.
Jiménez is certainly the form player of the European side and is showing no signs of letting up as he builds towards The 35th Ryder Cup Matches at Oakland Hills in a fortnight. Having reached the milestone of 40 earlier this year, Jiménez compared himself to a fine bottle of wine that gets better with age.
“I am very happy with the things around me at the moment and feel I am hitting the ball very nicely,” said Jiménez. “I had a good period like this in 1998 and 1999 but feel I now have more experience and more calm probably.”
Garcia, who has a house in Crans Montana overlooking the course, started well with four birdies in the first seven holes before pulling a nine iron on the eighth, hitting a spectator and running up a bogey. A second dropped shot followed on the 12th but three birdies in succession from the 13th put him right back in the frame.
“The course was playing tough this afternoon, quite firm although there was no wind,” said Garcia, sponsored by Omega. “But it was still tough to hit to the pins. On 11 it was almost impossible to get close. The greens were getting firm but nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with the course playing tougher than years past. Hopefully go out tomorrow and post a good round.”
On the performance of his fellow Spaniard and Ryder Cup teammate Jiménez, Garcia said: “I am ‘Looking forward to seeing him at The Ryder Cup. He is playing nicely and he is going to be a big factor in The Ryder Cup so hopefully he will be nice and relaxed and nice and strong for The Ryder Cup.”
Baker, playing his 500th event on The European Tour International Schedule matched the five under par score as he chases a strong week in Switzerland for the first time having never previously made the cut. A strong week would put him back on track to keep his card at the end of the season.
Farry is another player chasing his Tour card but feels his 66 could be a turning point after a string of missed cuts earlier in the season.
Hedblom, refreshed after a three week break, claimed his 66 was the worst score it could have been, citing missed putts on the first, 15th and 16th from within four feet which, had they dropped, would have turned his round into an exceptional one.
Donald, selected by Langer as a wild card for The Ryder Cup, had a slight lapse in concentration in the middle of his round when he dropped three shots in two holes on his 13th and 14th but bounced back with two birdies to join six other players on the four under par mark.