Miguel Angel Jimenez (Getty Images)
Miguel Angel Jiménez continued his bid to become The European Tour’s oldest winner in the first round of the UBS Hong Kong Open in Fanling.
The 48 year old Spaniard turned in a five under par 31 to share the early lead with Chinese veteran Zhang Lian-wei, himself only six months younger than Des Smyth when he won the Madeira Islands Open aged 48 years and 34 days.
Starting at the 11th, Jiménez – who has won 11 of his 18 European Tour titles since turning 40, the last of them in Switzerland two years ago – birdied his first three holes.
That was followed by consecutive birdies at the 17th and 18th to join Zhang on five under par.
The first Chinese golfer to win on The European Tour back in 2003, Zhang had four birdies in a row from the 11th, like Jiménez his first, then picked up a shot at the 17th.
It signalled a remarkable upturn in form for the World Number 1274, who has not had a top 20 finish anywhere in the world for over two years.
Jiménez is already bound for next week’s lucrative DP World Tour Championship, but in the last-minute scramble for places charismatic Swede Joel Sjöholm made a good start.
Currently 65th in The Race to Dubai, and with only the top 60 descending on Jumeirah Golf Estates, he followed a bogey at the 11th with five gains in his next 11 holes to take solo second on four under.
In the battle to retain playing cards for next season the most significant early mover was England’s Gary Boyd.
The 26 year old enjoyed six top ten finishes in an impressive first two seasons on The European Tour, but with only one so far this season finds himself down at 125th in The Race to Dubai with only 119 players retaining their playing privileges come Sunday.
Less than €5,000 behind 119th placed Rhys Davies, Boyd did his chances the world of good with two birdies in his first four holes to quickly move into the top ten.