UNTIL DOS EQUIS released its wildly popular “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercial series, Miguel Angel Jimenez was known as “The Mechanic.”
“The Mechanic” is a great nickname, bestowed because Jimenez is a car buff who worked briefly in an auto shop, but it could not fight fate. Thanks to Dos Equis, Jimenez is now, “The Most Interesting Man in Golf.”
Granted that’s not very tough in a game growing more and more corporate, but Jimenez wins the title by a wide enough margin to be deserving of it. The 50-year-old Spaniard became a little more interesting Saturday when he shot a 66 to move into a tie for fifth place at the Masters, two shots off the lead.
His round, which tied Fred Couples (2010) and Ben Hogan (1967) for the low round at Augusta by a senior player, stands as the low round of this year’s tournament by a player any age. Where Hogan did it with grim determination and Couples with country club cool, Jimenez did it Saturday with his version of “passion.”
He says “passion” or “passionate” a lot, and, with apologies to Adam Scott, nobody in golf does smooth like Jimenez. Scott is polished edges and impossible good looks. Jimenez is a kinky-curled ponytail, a scraggly goatee and enough of a belly that you notice. It’s doubtful any other person on earth could pull off the look, but Jimenez does.
“Probably the main thing is that I’m doing what I like to do in my life, and I’m enjoying it completely,” he said.
Jimenez gets around the course by guile (he’s 130th in driving distance on European Tour). He has fired a 71, a 76 and a 66 here this week, and he seems astounded that some players (cough, Jason Dufner, cough) can put up huge scores on holes at Augusta National Golf Club.
“If you are fine with the short game, don’t miss any putts, also, you’re not going to make a very high score here; you can, of course, if you lose your mind and you don’t care and you go, but if not, you’re not going to be a very, very high score,” he said. “The only thing you need to do is play the game.”
As for contending at a place that usually rewards long hitters, Jimenez says, “There are a lot of young guys that can hit the ball a long ways. I don’t hit the ball that far, but I hit it and it goes straight to the flag, you know.”
He says it with a twinkle in his eye. He says everything with a twinkle in his eye.
“I always have a lot of fun,” he acknowledged.
Jimenez turned 50 on Jan. 5. He celebrated “the same way I celebrated 48 and 49, and probably the same way I’m going to celebrate 51. Just get a nice bottle of wine, nice cigar, with my family around.”
Jimenez, one of six players 50 or older to make the cut this week, will play his first Champions Tour (they got tired of being called Seniors, apparently) event in Atlanta next week. He will play regardless of the outcome here this week because he has made the commitment, he said.
“I’m a professional, and I’m going to play next week, of course,” he said.
He was asked Saturday to give advice to the game’s younger generation of workout warriors who continue to break down.
“You need to make exercise because you’re going to be healthy; you need to make exercise because you’re going to be stronger, but you cannot go to those limits, sometimes,” he said. “And the thing I recommend to the young people is just enjoy what are you doing, make exercise to be healthy, not to get overdoing.”
Jimenez’s driving range stretching routine has become a YouTube sensation, in part because of its gyrating and in part because it’s often done with a cigar in his mouth. Jimenez does lots of things with a cigar in his mouth. They are such a presence that, in 2011, he was the subject of a long feature story in Cigar Afficiando, which dubbed him “The Most Interesting Golfer in the World.”
The only place Jimenez doesn’t smoke is on the course during a competitive round.
“There’s enough worry about the game to worry about where I left my cigar,” he said.
Jimenez, the 40th-ranked player in the world, has been a member of the European Tour since 1990 and the PGA Tour since 1995. He is playing in his 15th Masters and looking for his first major win.
“I have plenty of victories in my career, and having a major in my career would be amazing. That would be the flower on top to say so,” he said. “I will try to. If I can play golf and control the ball, I have my chances. I’m still going close on the weekend of the major.”