Jimenez cards career-low 61 to take three-shot lead at European Masters

miguel angel jimenez
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Two eagles and six birdies gave 46-year-old Ryder Cup star Miguel Angel Jimenez a 10-under-par 61 on Friday.
Mark Garrod
PA Sport


Published: Friday, September 03, 2010 | 1:13 p.m.

Miguel Angel Jimenez produced the lowest round of his 27-year European Tour career on Friday.

Two eagles and six birdies gave the 46-year-old Ryder Cup star a 10-under-par 61 in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre, and he goes into the weekend with a three-stroke lead.

Jimenez, making his 22nd successive visit to the Alpine resort, had a chance for the European Tour's first-ever 59 when he reached the 16th tee needing two more birdies. But the Spaniard, who has had 10 of his 17 victories on the circuit since turning 40, had to be content with parring all three remaining holes for a 14-under halfway total of 128.

More good news for Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie was that Italian Edoardo Molinari, the only other member of his side playing in the event, is tied for second with 17-year-old compatriot Matteo Manassero. Molinari, handed a wild card after his win in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last Sunday, added a 65 to his opening 66.

First-round leader Manassero, trying to become the Tour's youngest-ever winner in only his sixth event as a professional, chipped in for eagle at the long 15th in his 67. But the day belonged to a player who made his Tour debut 10 years before Manassero was even born.

"It was a beautiful day in the mountains," said Jimenez, playing his 535th Tour event. "I was thinking 59 a little bit and I tried, but it was still a great round. All the clubs were working properly and that's what you need."

Playing for the fifth week in a row -- he added last week's event to his schedule for fear of losing out in the Ryder Cup race and finished third -- Jimenez followed three early birdies with an eagle at the 629-yard ninth. He was on in two with a 3-wood there, while at the 595-yard 14th he hit a 5-wood to within three feet of the flag for his second eagle.

Molinari, also a two-time winner this season, had set the target during the morning with his second bogey-free round.

"I hit the ball great and it was a very controlled and solid round," said the 29-year-old, who after this will take three weeks off to rest and then prepare for his debut against the Americans -- alongside his brother Francesco, of course -- at Celtic Manor on Oct. 1-3.

Manassero, last year's British Amateur champion, turned professional only in May at the Italian Open and probably needs a top-five finish to avoid the qualifying school at the end of the season.

This is the sixth of seven invitations he is allowed. The other comes at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland next month.

His opening 64 made him the youngest player ever to lead a European Tour event outright after the completion of a round and he resumed with three more birdies in the first four holes. While he could not keep pace with Jimenez after that, he was still delighted with his performance knowing what is at stake.