Sport Golf

Sunday 18 February 2018

Vintage Jimenez proves age is no barrier

Miguel Angel Jimenez carded a remarkable 66 yesterday
Miguel Angel Jimenez carded a remarkable 66 yesterday

Dermot Gilleece

When Jack Nicklaus, as a 46-year-old, thrilled the golfing world with a sixth Masters triumph in 1986, he stirred others of a certain age to start getting notions about themselves.

All of which has culminated in a record six fifty-somethings making the cut for this weekend.

The venerable sextet are: Fred Couples (54), Bernhard Langer (56), Sandy Lyle (56), Larry Mize (55), Miguel Angel Jimenez (50) and Vijay Singh (51).

And the Spaniard, who is the only non-Masters champion in the group, stunned yesterday's crowds by carding a remarkable 66 for a three-under-par aggregate of 213.

Lyle, meanwhile, is also an interesting survivor for the fact that he will complete 100 Augusta rounds this weekend, making him a Masters centurion since filling 48th place behind Seve Ballesteros on his debut in 1980. And as to why, at 56, he still feels the urge to compete, his reply – "you never know in this game" – contained the wisdom of countless decades.

The 1988 champion went on: "They had kind of crossed Nicklaus off as getting too old, when he won his last Masters. Obviously I'm a bit older than that now, but I'm strong enough and long enough off the tee.

"I'm not suggesting I'll threaten the leaders, but look what Miguel is doing. And while the putter continues to behave itself, a good finish in the top 20 is still a possibility. Which would be very nice."

Nicklaus often talked about the pain of becoming a ceremonial golfer.

He saw no point in competing with younger rivals, unless he had a realistic chance of winning. With that in mind, he bade farewell to the Masters as a 65-year-old in 2005, having missed his last four cuts in a row.

Yet at 58, in 1998, he played well enough to claim a share of sixth place behind Mark O'Meara. And remarkably, he improved his position in each round, progressing from 18th to 11th, 10th and then sixth. And given that he had serious hip problems at the time, actually winning a seventh Masters would have been clearly realistic, had he been in the whole of his health.

Couples, who was placed second at the halfway stage last year before eventually finishing tied 13th, clearly believes that age boundaries are falling.

"Some bad play at crucial moments last year cost me," he said. "But is it possible for someone of my age to win here? Absolutely."

And he might have added: look what Miguel is doing.

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