Miguel Angel Jimenez plans to keep contributing money from his own pocket to ensure the survival of the Andalucia Open.
Jimenez, who is based in Malaga and is the tournament’s promoter, has won 18 times on the European Tour, including four in the Andalucia region. And he has reportedly given $560,000 over the past three years to keep the Andalucia Open going.
The Aloha Golf Club near Marbella, Spain, is hosting the Andalucia Open for the third time this year.
“It is very important for me that this tournament goes forward and all I am trying to do is do my best,” said Jimenez, whose ocmpany promotes the event. “With the way the economy is at present, it is difficult to stage any big sporting event because it is not easy to find sponsorship money.
“So, while it would be very easy for me to give up I don’t want to give up and want there to be a tournament in this region of Spain.”
This year’s tournament will be played at the Aloha Golf Club near Marbella on the Costa del Sol. The $1.3 million purse is one of the smallest on the 2012 Race to Dubai schedule, but Jimenez has managed to attract former major winners Rich Beem (2002 PGA Championship), Mike Weir (2003 Masters) and Michael Campbell (2005 U.S. Open).
Paul Lawrie, the defending champion and 1999 British Open winner, and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal have been forced out of the event through illness and injury.
Lawrie is struggling with a chest infection and faces a three-week wait to be assured of competing in the Masters for the first time since 2004. The 43-year-old Scot is ranked 45th in the world and needs to remain inside the top 50 to be certain of playing in the season’s first major.
Lawrie would have been the highest ranked player competing in Spain this week, but his withdrawal leaves the 51st-ranked Jimenez with that honor.
“I sent Miguel Angel Jimenez a text to say sorry but I’m not well enough to play, I hope he understands,” Lawrie said. “I have spent all day on the couch, one minute sweating and the next minute freezing.”
Weir knows Lawrie’s pain. Since tearing a ligament in his right elbow and undergoing an operation early in 2010, Weir has struggled to remain injury-free and regain his old touch.
He made the cut just twice in 15 PGA Tour events last year, and has missed the cut in all three of his tour events this year. His last top 10 was at the 2010 Bob Hope Classic.
He’s in Spain for the first time since he won the 2000 WGC-American Express Championship at Valderrama, and admits he’s hoping to use invites on the European Tour to return to the PGA Tour full-time.
“My two girls are now 14 and 11 years old so while I wanted to be close to home when they were younger, they’re now saying to me, ‘Dad, just go and play as you’re driving us crazy,”’ said the 41-year-old Canadian. “But as much as I am delighted to be here back in Spain, my goal is still to get back full-time on the PGA Tour.”
Weir said his elbow was fully healed but he’s had to reduce practice.
“I used to maybe hit a couple of hundred balls on the range, and I’m now down to about 50 to 70 balls,” he said. “It’s going to be another year yet before the tendon lengthens out and it’s fully healed, but in comparison to last year it’s 100 percent better.
“But I’ve accepted my plight and if I have to ask for an invitation to compete then I don’t mind," he added. "That’s golf, I guess. When I look back, it took me six years playing mini tours, the Canadian Tour and in places like Australia to get where I was at on the PGA Tour.
“I started as a pro in ’92 and first played on the PGA Tour in ’98, so I am used to having to dig my way out of things. But there’s at least one event in a few weeks that I know I am playing (the Masters) and that’s nice to circle on the calendar every year.”