Jimenez wins French Open in playoff on calamitous final day for contenders

european tour, alstom french open, miguel angel jimenez
Getty Images
His victory lifts the pony-tailed, cigar-loving Miguel Angel Jimenez all the way from 17th to sixth in the European Ryder Cup race.
By
PA Sport

Series:

Miguel Angel Jimenez became the oldest-ever winner of continental Europe's oldest golf title on Sunday -- but he did it the hard way after making a real mess of the final hole.

The 46-year-old Spaniard captured the Alstom French Open at Le Golf National by beating compatriot Alejandro Canizares and Italian Francesco Molinari in sudden death after he had gone in the water when two clear.

Jimenez had his second chance when Canizares 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 4.

Five months after beating Lee Westwood in a playoff in Dubai, Jimenez 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 victory lifts the pony-tailed Jimenez all the way from 17th to sixth in the Ryder Cup race -- the same position Molinari would have taken if he had won. Amazingly, 10 of Jimenez's 17th European Tour victories have come since he turned 40 -- that is a record for the circuit -- and he now becomes the eighth-oldest champion in Tour history.

The compensation for Canizares, meanwhile, was that he qualifies for the British Open at St. Andrews as the leading non-exempt player in the event.

Earlier Jimenez 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 playoff 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.

"I gave it a good go. I hit the last putt exactly where I wanted, but it didn't come down,” said McIlroy, four behind a the start, after signing for a 66. "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."

Inevitably on a course that would provide spectacular action if it stages the 2018 Ryder Cup -- that decision is made next April- - there were calamities everywhere you looked.

Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen was tied for the lead when he put three balls in the water on the 399-yard 15th and ran up a sextuple-bogey 10.

England's Kenneth Ferrie, also trying for the Open spot as well as this treasured trophy, was one behind when he bogeyed the 17th and then had a quintuple-bogey 9 on the last. He was in a back bunker for two, went into the lake he had already crossed once and then pitched into it again.

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

Meanwhile, Indian Jyoti Randhawa, two off the lead at the start of the round, crashed to an 83 -- even though there was nothing worse than a 6 on his card.

Seventeen-year-old Matteo Manassero finished 3 under after a best-of-the-day 65 and that helps his bid to earn enough this season to avoid the qualifying school in November. The Italian turned professional after the Masters in April and, as he did there, has made the cut in the first four of the seven invitations he is allowed.

Having decided against playing the Barclays Scottish Open and having failed to qualify for the British Open by one shot, his next European Tour start is the Irish Open later this month.

Jimenez admitted experience had been vital as he entered the playoff, saying: "Experience is always important. These two guys are playing very well.

“All three guys finish at 11 under par, and Alejandro is playing very well and putting very well. But experience is also key,” he explained. "On 18, I hit my ball in the middle of the fairway and both of them missed the fairway. One of the most important things is to keep breathing and tell yourself to relax, breathe."

He added: "It feels great. Another victory, the second victory of the year and being in the playoff again. And at 46 I think I'm the oldest winner on the Tour now.

"I feel great,” he exclaimed. “I've been hitting the ball well and playing well and I keep fighting with all of the young people here and I'm very proud to be part of history."

The Spaniard also set his sights on making the European team for the Ryder Cup later this year at Celtic Manor.

"It would mean a lot, because this year is probably the last chance to be part of the team by playing, so this means a lot," he said. "I will try to be on the team. It's getting closer now. But it's going to be very, very important to be in good condition, playing well, healthy, and to be part of that team."

Molinari said: "It (the final hole) was a decent shot but just a bit unlucky, and then I fought as hard as I could and holed the putt, but Miguel, I think he deserved to win today."

Canizares added: "In the playoff, I just didn't play the way I should have played, and congratulations to Miguel, he deserved it."