JIMENEZ MAINTAINS GRIP AT OMEGA EUROPEAN MASTERS
Crans Montana, Switzerland, September 4: Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez retained his overnight three-shot advantage after a pulsating third round at the Omega European Masters on Saturday.
The charismatic 46-year-old finished strongly with two birdies over his closing four holes for a three-under-par 68 at the sun splashed Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club to lead from Italian Edoardo Molinari, who made a vital par at the last for also a 68.
Italian prodigy Matteo Manassero battled to a 69 to lie a further stroke back alongside England’s Steve Webster, who charged into contention with a fine 64 at the €2 million (US$2.8 million) event jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Korean teenage star Noh Seung-yul, who currently leads the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, moved up to tied seventh place with a solid 67 but will enter the final round eight shots behind the man nicknamed “The Mechanic”.
Jimenez, chasing an 18th career victory and third win of the season, fought valiantly after a brief stumble on his homeward stretch. But he ended the day with a flourish by holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a three-day total of 17-under-par 196.
In his 22nd straight appearance at the picturesque Crans Montana, Jimenez knows the timing is right for him to finally win the Omega European Masters title, which will match nicely with his other victories in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and French Open this year.
“My aim tomorrow is to keep playing well and enjoy myself on the golf course and take this title. That’s what I would love to do. Three shots ahead and 18 holes to go, you have to keep patient,” said the Ryder Cup star. “I missed a few short ones at the sixth and ninth holes but this (on the 18th) was good to compensate.”
Jimenez’s lead could have been wider if not for a self-imposed one-shot penalty when he inadvertently picked up his ball on the 10th hole when he thought a sprinkler head was in the path of his swing.
“Yes, nobody knew. Only Molinari, when I picked the ball up close to the sprinkler head. I put the tee down and picked up the ball but I should have checked first to see if it interfered before I made that decision. I kind of lost my mind a little bit! I told Edoardo I picked up the ball. Sorry,” said Jimenez of the eventual bogey five.
The in-form Molinari, winner of last week’s Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland which earned him a maiden Ryder Cup call-up, produced a gutsy eight-foot par save on 18 to stay within striking reach.
“I think it was huge. I was very tired and I wasn’t playing well and I wasn’t making putts on the back nine. Obviously from being three or four behind is a massive difference,” he said.
“Front nine was flawless golf but on the back, especially after making bogey on 13, I felt tired all of the sudden. But luckily, I’m only three behind. Hopefully, I can hole some putts and put some pressure on Miguel tomorrow.”
The 19-year-old Noh moved up the leaderboard with a round that included an eagle, six birdies and four bogeys. After swapping two birdies against two bogeys on his outward nine, the 2007 Asian Tour’s Rookie of the Year showed why he is one of Asia’s rising stars with a scintillating back nine which included four birdies and one eagle for a 204 total.
Shot of the day came on the par five 14th when he smashed a five iron from 225 yards to four feet for his eagle three. “That was a good shot,” he smiled.
The difference in Noh’s round was the putter. On the front nine, he kept burning the edges of the cup but he comfortably holed out when opportunities came knocking on the door, thanks to some crisp iron play.
“I felt the same during the round. The putts just went in on the back nine,” said Noh.