Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez won the US$1.3 million Hong Kong Open in a three-way playoff yesterday, clinching the title for a record-equaling fourth time and securing his 20th European Tour victory.
The 49-year-old Spaniard birdied the first extra hole at the Hong Kong Golf Club to defeat Thailand’s Prom Meesawat and Stuart Manley of Wales and collect US$216,660.
Jimenez raised his arm to the air as a 15-foot-plus putt dropped into the hole on the 18th green, to the delight of an adoring crowd.
The victory saw the popular Jimenez match Taiwanese player Hsieh Yung-yo’s four wins at Fanling in the 1960s and 1970s, and break the record he set last year as the oldest European Tour winner.
“It’s very nice to win a fourth title and for two years in a row,” a delighted Jimenez said. “It’s a very sweet victory.”
Jimenez played the extra hole perfectly, hitting his tee shot past his opponents and into a prime position far down the fairway.
“I thought I needed to make a birdie. I hit a beautiful drive down the middle of the fairway then hit a wedge. To win in that style makes it even more sweet,” he said afterward, enjoying his trademark cigar and glass of red wine.
Jimenez started the day two shots behind overnight leader Manley, but soon closed the gap with birdies at three, 11, 13 and 14 as the Welshmen traded bogeys with birdies in an inconsistent round.
As the Spaniard ticked along nicely, Prom — playing in the group ahead of Jimenez — was tearing up the course to propel himself up the leaderboard. Two eagles and two birdies put the Thai golfer in the lead on his own at the co-sanctioned European Tour and Asian Tour event before a disappointing bogey at the 14th.
When the Spaniard bogeyed the 15th, the title looked to be heading Prom’s way until Jimenez rallied with a birdie at 17 after missing a good chance to pull level on 16.
Jimenez and Prom appeared to be set for a head-to-head in the playoff until Manley dramatically chipped in at the last for birdie and the three headed back down the eighteenth hole.
There, Manley hit a wayward iron which struck the roof of the hospitality tent, while Prom came up short of the green. Both were heading for fours when Jimenez rolled his putt in.
“It’s always hard to win a tournament,” Jimenez told reporters.
“The main thing was I never stopped telling myself to stay calm, live the moment and let everything happen,” he said, adding that he would be back in Hong Kong next year to try for a fifth win.
Manley, whose tie for second position was his highest in a European Tour event, said: “It was pretty special for me to even get into the play-off, so I can take a lot from that.”
Jimenez, who will turn 50 next month, won the Hong Kong Open in 2004, 2007 and last year, when at 48 years, 318 days old he became the oldest winner ever on the European Tour.