AUGUSTA, Ga.—Two things happened Saturday afternoon before Miguel Angel Jimenez stroked his dangerously fast putt from above the hole at the 18th green.
One, a sportswriting colleague walked past and uttered into my ear, “Stay thirsty, my friend,” a homage to Jimenez being even more interesting than The Most Interesting Man in the World of beer commercial fame.
Two, there were whoops and hollers as Masters leader Bubba Watson unleashed his opening drive at the first hole. Normally, no good can come of playing the 18th hole while the leader is going off No. 1 on the weekend. That’s usually identifies back-of-the-pack clutter, irrelevant jostling for 35th place. Jimenez, who was on the green, and Gary Woodland, who was hitting off the 18th tee, stood that logic on its head. Which isn’t easy if logic sports a red-dyed ponytail.
The 50-year-old Spaniard posted the tournament’s low round of the week at that point, a six-under-par 66 after a second-round 76. It briefly vaulted him into second place at three under par.
Woodland, the big hitter from Kansas who was playing in the twosome behind Jimenez, performed what may have been the week’s most exciting and roller-coaster-ish round. Woodland had four birdies and an eagle (he hit, ho-hum, 7-iron onto the green from 209 yards at No. 2) on the front nine, tying the Masters front-nine record of 30.
“That’s pretty cool,” Woodland said, who hadn’t known about the record. He smiled and added, “Hopefully, I can get the back nine tomorrow.”
When Woodland birdied the 10th, too, to go seven under through ten holes, he gave fans and writers fantasies of something baroque. Like 59 or 60 perhaps, what with two par 5s ahead that Woodland could easily reach with less than a mid-iron. The round didn’t go baroque, however, it just broke. A poor putt from the fringe led to a bogey at the 11th and a mis-hit wedge shot at the 12th that caught the bank and rolled back into Rae’s Creek led to a double bogey. Another bogey from the front bunker at the 18th turned it into a disappointing 69, if there is such a beast at Augusta National.
For ten holes Woodland’s round was a sight to behold. “I was just riding it,” Woodland said. “It was awesome.”
Asked if any numbers popped in his head during that run like, say, 59, he said, “No, I was just trying to birdie every hole.” And he said it in a matter-of-fact way, as if it’s normal to birdie every hole at Augusta National.
A birdie binge isn’t unusual for a power hitter like Woodland. But Jimenez is leading a charge of the geezer set this week. He’s one of six players over 50 who made the cut, a Masters first, and ties Ben Hogan and Fred Couples for the lowest 18-hole score made by a player 50 years or older.
Jimenez is a living caricature best known for toking on a cigar, his anti-establishment ponytail and his middle-aged-guy-with-a-guy warmup routine that became a viral video. He likes wine and playing golf, he’s been a Ryder Cup stalwart and he’s done everything in golf, including winning in his 40s, except snag a major.
In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the Jimenez stretching routine:
A 66 after two days of tough scoring at the Masters, though, seemed shocking.
“I love the place,” Jimenez said. “It’s a beautiful place, a beautiful course and I feel great here. The golf course also is, if you don’t hit it good, you don’t want to be here. You need to hit it good and be patient. That’s my style of game and what I love to do. If you are 50 doesn’t mean that you cannot play well. I’m still moving, I’m still flexible. I’m competitive, you know?” There’s something about his warm-up routine that’s a scream. Maybe it’s the cigar. Maybe it’s the club-twirling. Maybe it’s the hair. Maybe it’s the tummy overhang. You can try but you can’t look away.
Jimenez was asked in a post-round press conference whether a good warm-up routine is important to him. “Of course,” he dead-panned, drawing laughter.
Yes, he knows his unorthodox routine has caught on with fans and not necessarily for the right reasons. But he’s The Most Interesting Man in the World, he’s fine with that.
“What you see there is a little funny but it helps to move the joints,” he said. “Probably it’s funny. Sometimes, I’m looking at myself on video and I’m laughing with you. It’s nice, it’s bueno. But you know what is the main thing, I never get injured.” Before one round at last year’s PGA Championship, Jimenez spent over an hour on the range. During that time, he did his amusing stretching, smoked most of two cigars, carried on several animated conversations and hit a total of two golf balls. Then he went to the first tee.
You may see more of Jimenez on the Champions Tour but probably not much more. He has committed to play next week’s Greater Gwinnett Championship in suburban Atlanta for his debut but after that, possibly only the British Senior Open. He’s 50, yes, but he wants to make another Ryder Cup team and believes he can do it. So he’ll focus mainly on playing the European tour toward that end and convincing captain Paul McGinley he should be part of it.
“He’s very happy with the way I play and he tells me, ‘Hey, keep doing that because I need a very experienced guy on the team,’” Jimenez said. “And I said, OK, I will do my best.”
The only mistake Jimenez made Saturday was near the end of his press conference when the moderator announced there would be time for only two more questions.
“Yes, because I’m hungry,” Jimenez joked, drawing more waves of laughter.
Hungry? Let me help you with the translation, Miguel Angel. I’m pretty sure you meant to say, Stay thirsty, my friend.