Jaime Diaz

The Real Deal

Continued (page 2 of 2)

But when Jiménez tried to play the PGA Tour in 2002, he found himself missing the camaraderie of those late dinners he shared on the European Tour. With his game in shambles, a lonely Jiménez decided he needed to grow his hair long. "This is how I wore my hair when I was young," he explained to Matt Rollins of Ping, who has long worked on Jiménez's clubs. "It makes me feel young. Now I play young."

And so he did. Jiménez returned to Europe and won 13 times in his 40s, and he believes he is still improving. In retrospect, Jiménez breaking his right shinbone in a skiing accident at the end of 2012 might have been a turning point. Through his rehabilitation, he became devoted to working out, getting a trainer and developing his stretching regimen.

"Miguel loves wine and food too much to completely lose the belly, but he's actually in quite good shape," says swing instructor Jamie Gough, who Jiménez began working with last year to get a few more yards out of his 46-inch driver. The speed and fuller finish notable in the Jiménez post-50 swing is no accident

"He works like a Trojan," says Gough. "If he ever misses a cut, you will see him on the range all day Saturday."

Although he jokes about being lubricated by Rioja and olive oil, there's within Jiménez a significant element of Toledo steel as well. "I like the feeling of the knot in my stomach," he said at the Masters after a Saturday 66 that was the low round of the tournament. "I feel that thing since Monday when I got here. It doesn't disappear. I love that thing. That's why I'm still competing."

It's a quality both Seve Ballesteros and Olazábal wanted Jiménez to impart when they made him a vice-captain on their Ryder Cup teams. According to Lopez-Bachiller, before the final round of this year's Masters, Olazábal sought out his friend before he teed off in the third-from-last group to offer encouragement and express his admiration.

"Chema said, 'Miguel, look at me,'" said Lopez-Bachiller. "'You know how much I admire Seve, how much I learned from him, how he was my hero. Look at me. Today my hero is you. You can win Masters as well.'"

He didn't, shooting a 71 in which his hot putter cooled off, but the performance only reinforced Jiménez's belief that he can still win a major.

But if he doesn't, he will find fulfillment in other ways, including giving back by promoting Spanish junior golf and perhaps resurrecting the Andalucia Open, which he hosted for six years -- the last four of those contributing his own money to keep it alive when sponsors were scarce in the depressed Spanish economy.

"Miguel every year asked Tiger Woods to play," says Lopez-Bachiller. "He'd say, 'Tiger, why don't you play? Money? I don't have any money. But I will put you in a nice hotel, cook you some great meals and you can save my event.' He said that each time, Tiger smiled and politely said no. But when the time comes, he will ask him again."

To Jimenez, it's a simple equation. "I give all my life to golf, and golf gives me all my life," he says. It's a genuinely interesting man's way to not only live the good life, but a good life that's also a real thing.
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