COLOURFUL SPANIARD MIGUEL Angel Jimenez has a special incentive ahead of this week’s Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea.
At a time when elite athleticism is becoming the norm in professional golf, Jimenez remains a popular, every-man figure.
The 48-year-old, who has 21 career victories under his belt, is noted for puffing on cigars during competitive rounds, and a comfortable physique is testament to his frequently indulged passion for fine wine.
With that in mind, one of the prizes on offer from sponsors for the winner at the Blackstone Golf Club is of special interest for Jimenez.
At each of the last four editions of the tournament, the man finishing atop the leaderboard on Sunday has been invited to create their own ‘Championship Blend’ of the prestigious Scottish whiskey.
“As everyone knows, I enjoy life – I like drinking and smoking cigars,” Jimenez said.
“I really enjoyed some 30-year-old whisky at the Ballantine’s last year, and hopefully this year I will be able to make my own special blend as the winner of the tournament.”
Jimenez narrowly missed out on doing so in 2011, when he finished one shot behind the winner, then-world number one Lee Westwood of England.
“It will be nice to go back to Blackstone and try to go one better than last year,” he said.
“It was obviously disappointing to miss out on the win, but you can never be too upset when you’re beaten by the world number one.”
“I played quite well on the last day, but the putts didn’t drop. I left myself with a difficult bunker shot on the last hole and didn’t manage to get up and down, but it was still a good week and a great experience.”
While Westwood will not be present to defend his title, there will be no shortage of rivals equipped to thwart the ambitions of Jimenez.
Englishmen Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Ross Fisher are all in the field, joined by Darren Clarke, the reigning British Open champion.
South Korean YE Yang, winner of the 2009 US PGA Championship, will lead a strong home contingent, which also includes Sang-Moon Bae and KT Kim.
Among several Australian representatives is Adam Scott, the highest-ranked players in the field at world number 12.
The Ballantine’s Championship begins near Icheon, South Korea, on Thursday.