With 21 European Tour titles, two Ryder Cup wins and two majors among his seven Champions Tour victories, 55-year-old Miguel Ángel Jiménez casts quite the golfing shadow. Lest we forget the reigning Senior Open champion from St. Andrews also owns the unofficial title as the coolest cat in golf.
By Kent Gray
At 23, Miguel Ángel Jiménez Jnr has chosen the MENA Tour to forge his own pathway to professional golf prominence, as much as he enjoys playing in his father’s silhouette.
The “Mini Mechanic” is taller, leaner and longer than his old man, minus the trademark ponytail and Cohiba Siglo cigars. His second full season as a pro hasn’t started great – after scrapping through on the bubble at MENA Tour Q-School he finished T-62 at +9 in the season-opening Journey to Jordan-1 and then missed the cut at +10 in the Al Zorah Open. But like father, like son, Jiménez Jnr oozes confidence and believes it is only a matter of time before the lessons learned as a junior in golf-mad Málaga and later at Nova Southeastern University, a Division II school in Florida, will begin paying off.
It’s not a bad thing having a famous father, obviously not, but sometimes it can be both [a blessing and a curse]. You have to differentiate between the Miguel Ángel Jiménez, golfer, and the Miguel Ángel Jiménez, father. It’s good but sometimes it can be a lot of pressure. Sometimes when they announce you on the tee, you feel like you are representing your Dad. Sometimes you’ve got to get away from that and just focus on yourself.
He made me put the Jnr after my name. We get some trouble, ‘hey, Miguel Ángel Jiménez is playing the MENA Tour?’. Nah, because of sponsors, his manager, I need to put the Jnr. I like it. I don’t mind it.
The main thing with the expectations is that I set them myself. People expect high, but I also expect high so I’m not worried about them. I worry about me, what I want to achieve. It’s just that my expectations are so high, I’ve seen my father play so many years, so good, it’s normal for him to be up there every week, top 10s and I want that to be normal for me too so that’s maybe why I set my expectations high.
Obviously, my dad spent all day at the golf course so as a kid I’d go spend time with him, just look at him in the beginning on the range and when I start getting older also playing, just following the same path. One and a half, honestly, I have memories [of playing] and then playing tournaments at five, six.
At the beginning, it was just a game for me, have fun. I used to go to the golf course but play football, tennis, so golf was the least I’d do. I’d play basketball but 12, 13 years old is when I realised I wanted to become professional. When I went to the golf course now I’d practice for six hours or seven hours and then I’d play tennis with a friend or something else.
I remember shooting my first under par round when I was 15. When I was 14 I thought, okay I’ll do this [break par] very easily. I actually got a new bed and I didn’t [want] to sleep on it until I make an under par round in a tournament. It took me one year till I slept on that bed.
College golf is very important. It teaches you how to play in teams, how to be social, how to be responsible. I was a lot late in my first year, I was late for practice, I was late for the gym, that’s for sure. But then when they started punishing my team-mates, it wasn’t that funny. It took me a while to get the discipline; obviously something new, living abroad. Florida is close to Miami so you know, a lot of distractions.
I got my finance degree, which my father always insisted. He said I couldn’t put all eggs into one basket.
I play with a lot of emotion. I found out with my coach, the best I play is when I’m full on and emotional. I’m really aggressive off the tee, I like hitting driver. My putting hasn’t been working out these last few weeks but I know it is there.
2014 at the Masters, I meet Jordan Spieth in the locker rooms, he was tied with Bubba Watson and my father was in contention too. [José María] Olazábal left a note on the locker for my father, the same note Severiano Ballesteros left for Olazábal when he first won. It was just like, play your game, enjoy it, so that’s a good anecdote.
The other one I have to point out is the 2013 British Open because dad was injured in December 2012, he broke his knee. He didn’t play golf for two months although it should have been something like five. He started walking with crutches and hitting balls with one leg, working crazy. All of the sudden in his first [tournament back], the BMW Championship at Wentworth, he’s one shot short of the playoff. Then when we went to the Open, he started like birdie, birdie, par, birdie, something like that, he’s leading after five. I got a little bit emotional because we thought his career was over and after that, he continues to play great.
He had a very tough way growing up, seven brothers, so they had to work to feed everyone. He started caddying to get money for the family so he took a lot of sacrifices. It’s not like he’s making it difficult for me but he’s always been, not worried, but I would saying paying attention to make sure I would do the right things, not have it easy.
Yes, he is tough on me but not with golf, with everything else. Golf he always let me do my own thing. I love technique, so I kind of do my own thing. He’s old school and I’m new school so we have some fights there on the range. But really he’s very relaxed about the golf, he never pressures me to play but he’s tough when it comes to life. Although when I shoot one under par now he’s like that’s bullshit, you don’t win tournaments with one under, so he’s tougher and tougher.
I’d say dad’s best quality is he’s very accurate off the tee and to the greens, approach shots. His wood game is amazing. Around 200 metres, which is a five wood to him, or a four iron to the rest of the world, he’s more accurate with the five wood than the person with a four iron. He’s very, very accurate. He also really knows how to control his mind. I think that’s why he keeps doing so well because his mental game is so strong. He never gives me any tips on that though, I think he wants to keep it for himself.
He’s always been a character, very different I would say. He used to hook the ball so much and all his friends would laugh at him when he was growing up in his early 20s and he would say, ‘don’t worry, this tournament is mine, you’re all playing for the second position, even with my hook’.”
Dad went on tour 30 years ago, it was completely different back then. Now I would say you have 200-300 players, very, very good players on every tour. Right now is so much more competitive than before. Asian Tour you might go to Q-School and get through but you might only get six events and at the low end as well. So I just want to keep improving and week-by-week, year-by-year and that [his career] will take care of itself.
I am a very good dancer. The guys on the tour know it, some of them when we have free time we go out dancing and I love it. I dance for two years Salsa at the university. I always like music, Latin music especially, but any kind of music, just being myself. Sometimes I’m being the clown but that’s part of who I am.
If I can’t count my dad, I would say Phil Mickelson is my favourite player. Sometimes us kids, we’d copy him, doing all the flop shots over your head. He’s a player that shows you golf can be different. He never hits the fairway…but where’s a lot of shaping to his shots, a lot of ability around the greens and I really like that. It seems like he has some Spanish hands too.
I’ve heard this from my dad so many times, a win is a win no matter where it is, it’s always special. But Augusta is a nice place, it’s beautiful and because it’s always in the same place. The Open is also great so which tournament would I like to win? I wouldn’t choose one over the other. A win is a win.
It’s amazing. last December, I was one week without barely touching a club, just hitting a few balls on the range, but I was caddying for him and then I went back, I shot -8 in Málaga. You see all the rhythm he has, how he moves around the golf courses, the choices he makes. That’s the main thing I would say, his course management is really, really good.