It won’t be known for awhile, but if the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Haulalai is a harbinger of the PGA Tour Champions’ season ahead, it will be a memorable one.
Four World Golf Hall of Famers were tied for the lead at one point on the back nine at Hualalai Golf Club on the Big Island of Hawaii on Saturday, but it was an interloper, Miguel Angel Jimenez, who emerged the victor in a playoff with Ernie Els and Fred Couples.
Jimenez, 56, holed an 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to win the event for the second time.
Early on the back nine, Els, Couples, Bernhard Langer and Retief Goosen, all World Golf Hall of Famers, were tied for the lead at 12 under. Goosen was first to bow out by running out of holes and tied for fourth. Langer was next to go when his tee shot at the par-3 17th got caught in the wind and drifted left and onto the lava. He eventually made a double bogey, and bogeyed the 18th to fall to a tie for sixth.
Couples faltered on the first playoff hole when he missed a three-foot putt for par, leaving Jimenez and Els the last men standing.
Els, perhaps, came up one day short. Senior events (other than the majors) are 54-hole affairs and as such are more a sprint than a marathon. He nervously stumbled in his first round, shooting a 72, which put him eight shots back of the lead.
"From the first day it was pretty disappointing," Els said. "I was almost last in the field. Then I got myself back up and played some really good golf. Disappointing obviously. I would have loved to got it through, but I had a couple of chances, didn't quite get the right speed or the right line."
Els played his way into contention with consecutive 65s to get into a playoff with Couples and the interloper, Jimenez, who is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Many would argue, however, that he is a Hall of Famer of some sorts, given his popularity and renown in golf circles as the most interesting man in the world.
Jimenez, who shot a final-round 68 for a 54-hole total of 14-under par 202, caught a huge break on the par-3 17th. His tee shot went left and bounded off the lava and back into a bunker from which he was able to save par.
“I was very, very lucky there,” he said.
The PGA Tour Champions was fortunate, too, to open its season with a show featuring a star-studded cast.