Miguel Angel Jimenez (Getty Images)
Miguel Angel Jiménez once again showed his liking for Hong Kong as the Spaniard bids to become the oldest winner in European Tour history.
The 48 year old shot a five under par 65 at the UBS Hong Kong Open to set the first round clubhouse target; that in spite of finishing his round with back-to-back bogeys.
A winner of this event in 2005 and 2008, Jiménez set off with a hattrick of birdies from the 11th, added further gains at the 17th, 18th and third before an approach to five feet at the sixth brought him a seventh birdie of the day.
The Ryder Cup Vice Captain has won 11 of his 18 European Tour titles since turning 40, the last of them in Switzerland two years ago, but his round finished on a slightly sour not as he bogeyed the ninth then failed to chip in for par at the tenth, his last.
“I played very solid all day,” he said.
“I'm putting very well. It's a pity that I missed a fairway on the ninth hole and then I had to lay up and I missed a three metre putt.
“Then on the last hole, I got a big flyer, and that is the defence of the golf course, when you miss the fairway and go in the rough.
“I like the place. The first time I came here I won the tournament here and then I won three years later also. I like it. It's an old fashioned golf course, it's not very long, but I need to be very precise, because if you miss the fairways, you're going to have flyers and the greens are fast.
“The golf course is an old fashioned golf course and it's a great golf course. I like it very much.”
Jiménez led by one from a group of three players; one of which was the familiar face of compatriot and playing partner José María Olazábal.
The Ryder Cup Captain had birdies from 20 feet at the fourth and ten feet at the sixth, with a pitch to to two feet at the tenth securing a four under par 66.
He was alongside Chinese veteran Zhang Lian-wei and Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed, while a shot further back the race for places in Dubai and on The European Tour next season was hotting up.
Swede Joel Sjöholm, Frenchman Grégory Bourdy and New Zealander Michael Campbell, 65th, 76th and 83rd on The Race to Dubai, were all round in 67 as they look to break into the top 60 in time for next week’s lucrative DP World Tour Championship.
Alongside them with a hole to play was England’s Gary Boyd, who at 125th needed a good week to climb into the top 119 who will keep their cards for next season come Sunday.
World Number One and Race to Dubai champion Rory McIlroy missed a four foot par putt at the first, but birdied the third from six feet to return to level par.
Boyd finished with a bogey, but it was still a good performance from the 26 year old - who needs at least €4,861 to stand a chance of overhauling 119th-placed Rhys Davies.
Former US PGA Champion Y E Yang was going best of the afternoon starters, the Korean advancing to five under and level with Jiménez with three holes to play.
England’s Simon Khan - 115th on The Race to Dubai but with no exemption worries after his BMW PGA Championship win in 2010 - joined the group on four under, while last week’s winner Matteo Manassero was going well on three under through 15 holes.