Monday, 21 March 2011
 Miguel Angel Jimenez   (Getty Images)
Miguel Angel Jimenez (Getty Images)

Miguel Angel Jiménez is unique on The European Tour. No-one is more instantly recognisable with his wiry ginger ponytail and a disproportionately large Cuban cigar wedged between his lips.

At 47, he continues to eschew the sweat-drenched life of the gym-rat, preferring an existing consisting of strong black coffee and a large vessel of Rioja to swill down some Spanish ham or paella. And why not? It appears to have served him admirably in more than two decades on The European Tour.

With a total of 18 European Tour titles to his name, four Ryder Cup appearances for Europe and in excess of €17 million in career earnings, Jiménez is entitled to sit back and prepare for the next phase of his life with pipe and carpet slippers, content with his lot.

Except, this being Miguel Angel Jiménez, it isn’t quite like that.

For the fifth successive season, Jiménez’s own company, Fade & Draw Target, will be promoting the Open de Andalucia de Golf by Turkish Airlines at Parador de Malaga Golf close to his home turf on Spain’s Costa del Sol.

It is the Spaniard’s way of putting something back into the sport which has supplied him with a lavish lifestyle and a fame and popularity which extends well beyond the fairways of the golf course which skirts Malaga’s

International Airport, transporting millions of sun-seekers to their Spanish idyll.

“I am what I am thanks to golf,” admitted Jiménez as he put the finishing touches to this year’s tournament, where the reigning Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen defends the title which helped propel him on the road to stardom 12 months ago.

He explained: “This is the way of giving back to Andalucia what I have achieved in 23 years on The European Tour. I was determined to have an event permanently on The European Tour’s International Schedule and this is the fifth year that Fade & Draw Target has been the promoter.

“Golf in Andalucia is much more than just a sport – it has become an industry and, although we are going through difficult times, it generates many employees.”

The greatest irritant for Jiménez the golfer is actually being Jiménez the promoter this week. In four years in which he has worn his promoter’s hat in addition to his golf glove, Jovial Jiménez has been transformed into Miserable Miguel due to the constraints of looking after the needs of his fellow pros.

He sighed: “It is impossible to concentrate and practise for the last three months – too many phone calls and meetings, trying to find sponsors in a difficult financial climate. The most difficult part is to do so many things around the event – the media requirements, dinners, meetings with sponsors, politicians, making the players welcome.

“My mind tends to be all over the place and it comes as a relief when you get onto the first tee and you can then focus on your game. We always have a very good field and if you look at the past winners – Lee Westwood, Thomas Levet, Søren Kjeldsen and Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen – you can see the quality.”

Among those competing for the €1 million prize fund is the Spanish national Open champion, Alvaro Quiros, who lavished praise on his fellow Iberian. He said: “It’s great what Miguel is doing for Spanish golf by promoting the Open de Andalucia. I support everything he is doing and most of the Spanish players on the Tour want to play in the tournament to help his cause.”

Win or lose, Jiménez will pop the cork on another flagon of fine wine, light up another cigar and raise his glass to toast the end of a frenetic week.  Yes, there IS only one Miguel Angel Jiménez!

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