Miguel Angel Jiménez continued his excellent recent form to take a one shot lead after the opening round of the KLM Open in The Netherlands.
The 49 year old Spaniard, The European Tour’s oldest winner after victory in Hong Kong last year, carded a six under par 64 at Kennemer.
Having broken his leg skiing over the winter, the former Ryder Cup star has made a remarkable recovery and came into the event on the back of top-five finishes at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Omega European Masters, as well as being 13th and 29th in the year’s two final Majors – The Open Championship and US PGA Championship.
Jiménez birdied three of his first four holes, and after a first bogey of the day at the sixth responded with an approach to five feet at the seventh to get the shot straight back,
He started for home with another bogey at the tenth, but had a tap-in birdie at the long 12th and fired his approach to five feet at the next.
The highlight of the day came when Jiménez holed his pitch shot at the 16th and, having saved par from 12 feet at the 17th, he rolled in an eight footer at the last for the outright lead.
“When the sun came out I started to play my best golf,” said Jiménez. “Holing my wedge shot from 40 metres on the 16th was very nice, then the birdie on the last was a great way to finish. I’m very happy.
“It’s a nice course and it’s in great condition, so I enjoyed my day very much. It’s maybe not playing as firm as it normally would, because of all the wet weather we’ve had. But hopefully we can get a bit more sun and it will dry out over the next few days.
“I played very well last week, so I expected to play well again here. Seve [Ballesteros]’s first win on The European Tour was here in 1976, and José María [Olazábal] also won here in 1989, so hopefully I can win here too. That would be fantastic.
“I love to kick the young boys’ butts! I look after myself. People know I love to smoke cigars and drink nice wines, but I also work out and I keep myself very fit, because you have to. I love my job and I love my life, so hopefully I can keep it going for a few years yet.”
On a packed leaderboard Jiménez’ compatriot Pablo Larrazábal, Ireland’s Damien McGrane, Scot Gary Orr, Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, England’s David Howell and Australian Robert Allenby are all one shot behind.
Zanotti did his chances of securing his playing rights on The European Tour for next season the world of good - having slipped to 152nd on The Race to Dubai the 30 year old has just four events remaining after this week to climb into the top 110 players who will keep their cards.
“A few years ago I played well here, so I like Holland,” sad Zanotti. “Always you have good memories, so you try to remember the good results and good places. Sometimes you get to those places and just play good golf, and that’s the case with me here.”
McGrane’s European Tour future had also appeared in doubt until a sixth-place finish in Wales two weeks ago lifted him to 94th in The Race to Dubai, and he continued that good form with five birdies, two bogeys and an eagle.
“I’m delighted, because I played lovely from start to finish,” said the 42 year old. “The course is in fantastic shape, and the weather was somewhat kinder this morning.
“All in all it was a very pleasing day, and definitely gives me a nice platform to build on over the next few days.”
Howell, whose main goal this season is to reach the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai having narrowly missed out since the season-ending event switched to the Emirate state where he resides, compiled a bogey-free effort – as did Larrazábal, seeking a first win of the season after posting five top-ten finishes.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts made a slow start on his return to Europe with three early bogeys and, although he fought back top level par, an errant tee shot at the ninth, his last, cost The Ryder Cup star a triple bogey seven and left him with a three over 73.