Jiménez wins Parisian play-off

7/4/2010 4:46:03 PM
2010 ALSTOM Open de France Champion Miguel Angel Jimenez   (Getty Images)
2010 ALSTOM Open de France Champion Miguel Angel Jimenez (Getty Images)

Miguel Angel Jiménez became the oldest-ever winner of continental Europe's oldest golf title in Paris - but only after a dramatic three-man play-off.

The 46 year old Spaniard captured the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National by beating compatriot Alejandro Cañizares and Italian Francesco Molinari in sudden death after he had gone in the water when two clear on the final hole of regulation play.

"The 72nd hole, last hole of the tournament, I hit a beautiful drive there," explained The Ryder Cup star. "My eight iron, 141 metres to the front and 146 metres to the hole - I feel a little pressure there, and the only thing I need to do is hit a good shot.

"But we are human, I made the shot, I hit the shot behind and I feel like I lose my rhythm, like the pressure is getting to me. I hit the ball a little bit behind and hit into the water and that's what happened there. That's probably the very bad shot I hit all day."

Jiménez had his second chance when Cañizares went twice into the same lake at the first extra hole and Molinari, bunkered off the tee, was forced to lay up on the par four.

Five months after beating Lee Westwood in a play-off in Dubai, Jiménez still had work to do when he missed the green, but a 15 footer gave him the crown after Molinari had holed from 18 feet for bogey.

The first prize of €500,000 lifts the pony-tailed Malaga golfer all the way from 17th to fifth in The Ryder Cup race - the same position Molinari would have taken if he had won.

"It will be nice to be on The Ryder Cup," he added. "At 46, probably this is my last chance to be on the team playing. But I would be very proud to be on Monty's team."

Amazingly, ten of Jiménez's 17 European Tour victories have come since he turned 40 - that is a record - and he now becomes the eighth oldest champion in European Tour history.

"Experience is always important," admitted Jiménez. "These two guys are playing very well - all three guys finish at 11 under par, and Alejandro is playing very well and putting very good. But, you know, the experience, also, is one of the keys. On 18, I hit my ball in the middle of the fairway and both of them missed fairway. One of most important things is keep breathing and tell yourself to relax, breathe."

The compensation for Cañizares was that he qualifies for The Open Championship at St Andrews as the leading non-exempt player in the  event.

"Obviously I got unlucky, 18th hole in regulation, but I had a putt to win and I didn't - I think I hit a good putt but it didn't go in," said Cañizares - whose father Jose Maria also lost a three-man play-off to Sir Nick Faldo in this event in 1983. "In the playoff, I just didn't play the way I should have played, and congratulations to Miguel, he deserved it."

Molinari added: "I fought as hard as I could, but Miguel, I think he deserved to win today."

Earlier Jiménez came bursting out of the pack with five successive birdies in six holes from the 11th to be two clear.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy would have been in the play-off as well if he had converted a 12 foot chance at the 18th, but it stayed above the hole and he had to be content with fourth.

After signing for a 66 the 21 year old, four behind at the start, said: "I gave it a good go. I hit the last putt exactly where I wanted, but it didn't come down.

"I can take a lot from this. I'm hitting it great and giving myself plenty of chances. I can't wait for The Open."

As for defending champion and overnight leader Martin Kaymer, he finished four back in joint sixth after double bogeys at the 15th and 18th.