Miguel Angel Jiménez is hopeful of marking the 40th anniversary of his compatriot Antonio Garrido’s victory in the first ever European Tour event with a win of his own at the Ballantine’s Championship, where the tournament sponsors will also be introducing its 40 year old Scotch whisky.
It is precisely four decades to the day that Garrido prevailed over his fellow Spaniard Valentin Barriso at the 1972 Open de España, since when Spanish players have recorded a further 163 European Tour victories.
Jiménez is responsible for 18 of those, and has his sights set on securing title number 19 when the fifth edition of the Ballantine’s Championship takes place at Blackstone Golf Club, near the Korean capital Seoul, from April 26-29.
The evergreen 48 year old came mightily close to winning the €2,205,000 event 12 months ago, when a closing round of 71 left him one shot short of Lee Westwood’s 12 under par aggregate winning total, and he is looking forward to another title attempt.
Jiménez said: “It will be nice to go back to Blackstone and try to go one better than last year. It was obviously disappointing to miss out on the win, but you can never be too upset when you’re beaten by the World Number One. I played quite well on the last day, but the putts didn’t drop. I left myself with a difficult bunker shot on the last hole and didn’t manage to get up and down, but it was still a good week and a great experience.”
Having triumphed at the BMW Asian Open in 2004, and later at the Hong Kong Open in 2005 and 2008, Jiménez is no stranger to winning in the Far East, and the man from Malaga is confident of continuing his impressive record on Asian soil.
He said: “It’s always nice to win titles around the world, because it shows that you can win away as well as at home. I’ve won three times in Asia, and I have great memories of all three wins. The people are always great – they’re so happy for you – and hopefully I can play well there again.”
This year, Jiménez will be joined at Blackstone Golf Club by his compatriots and fellow European Tour champions José Manuel Lara and Pablo Martin.
With the likes of reigning Open Champion Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland and the English trio of Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter and Tom Lewis also in the field, Europe will again be well represented; but Jiménez is expecting an equally strong challenge from the home contingent, which will be led by Asia’s first Major Champion, Y E Yang.
He said: “Golf in Asia is developing all the time, and they seem to be producing more and more top players every year. They’ve got great golf courses and the fans always come out to watch, so I enjoy playing there and I’m looking forward to going back to Korea.
“Korea has lots of good players, especially Y E Yang. He is very strong mentally – he’s always very focused on what he’s doing. He showed that when he beat Tiger in the last round of the US PGA Championship in 2009. If he’s in contention on the last day he will be very difficult to beat, but I will try my best.”
Should Jiménez prevail, he will be given the honour of creating his own blend of Ballantine’s whisky, a privilege afforded to the winner of the tournament every year since Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell won the inaugural edition in 2008.
Jiménez admits he would be only too happy to collaborate with the Ballantine’s Master Blender.
He said: “As everyone knows, I enjoy life – I like drinking and smoking cigars. I really enjoyed some 30 year old whisky at the Ballantine’s last year, and hopefully this year I will be able to make my own special blend as the winner of the tournament.”
The Ballantine’s Championship Blend is a tradition established exclusively for the tournament, and a different blend is created by the winner each year.
The Ballantine’s 40 Year Old is a new ultra-rare blend launched in Korea this year, only 100 bottles of which will be made available annually.
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