European Tour

The first European Tour co-sanctioned event since the COVID-19 pandemic naturally has 56-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez with the halfway lead

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Stuart Franklin

Miguel Angel Jimenez, with his son Victor on his bag, has the halfway lead at the 2020 Austrian Open.

OK, so this €500,000 joint European/Challenge Tour event is far from the biggest deal in his impressive career. But at 56, Vienna-resident Miguel Angel Jiménez leads the Austrian Open at the halfway stage. Already the oldest winner on the Old World circuit, after taking the 2014 Spanish Open title at 50 years and 133 days old, the eccentric Spaniard is 11 under par and two strokes clear of a five-strong group that includes Belgian Nicolai Von Dellingshausen, Joost Luiten (the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 104), a brace of Scots in Marc Warren and Craig Howie, and the man who is surely the fastest player on any tour, Renato Paratore of Italy.

In search of what will be his 22nd European Tour win, Jiménez made 10 birdies in his second-round 65 over the 7,458-yard Diamond Country Club, located just outside his adopted home city (his wife is Austrian). The highlight, however, was the 3 he made at the 468-yard, par-4 eighth. It was one of only handful of birdies made at a hole Jiménez himself re-designed in 2010.

“I’m playing very well,” Jiménez said. “It feels great. Four months without competing, it’s nice getting back into a tournament and feeling the tension again. I’m hitting it well and making some putts, not too many bogeys—that’s the key. I enjoyed myself. My irons were working very well. I was excited to get back. I miss the competition. I can’t remember the last time I had four months holidays. Coming here from the Dominican Republic and getting started here, it’s a golf course I like very much.”

Adding to the enjoyment is that Jiménez, in what is his 705th European Tour start, has his son, Victor, a student at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, on his bag this week.

“It’s nice having my son with me,” said the former Ryder Cup player, who has career earnings on his home circuit in excess of €24 million. “It’s been a few months since I last saw him. He has to go back to the States to finish university. This is our chance to spend time together. He’s with me this week, I’m going to play the first three tournaments in the U.K., but he has to go back to the States at that time to study.”

Elsewhere in the esoteric line-up for the European Tour’s first event since the Qatar Masters in early March, one of two notables missed the halfway cut that fell on those who shot more than 143, one-under par. Among those with the weekend off was former Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts and a pair of newsmakers from recent U.S. Opens. Englishman Scott Gregory, who shot 92 in the opening round at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, was one; Welshman Rhys Enoch, whose 66 was the second-lowest second round at Pebble Beach last year (beaten only eventual champion Gary Woodland’s 65), the other.

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