Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez
London (AFP) - Miguel Angel Jimenez made history with a 707th start on the European Tour on Thursday and showed why he is still competing at the top level with a 64 to sit second on the leaderboard after the first round of the English Open.
The 56-year-old, who became the oldest winner in European Tour history in 2014 at the Spanish Open, carded eight birdies at the Forest of Arden to share second place with compatriot Pablo Larrazabal, just two shots off the lead held by another Spaniard, Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez.
Jimenez, who made his first start at the 1983 Spanish Open, was applauded on to the 18th green by many of his fellow players while Jack Nicklaus, world number one Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy were among those to pay tribute during the television coverage.
“It’s been a wonderful day,” said Jimenez, who surpassed Sam Torrance’s previous record of 706.
“Eight under par with a beautiful summer day and especially now on the 18th here with all my colleagues clapping for me, it’s emotional.”
However, one ingredient was missing for Jimenez as the European Tour continued its comeback behind closed doors.
“It’s amazing, 32 years moving around the world but I really miss one thing here, it’s the public because it would be amazing if I could see all of you here and all my friends in the UK, always coming to see me play golf.”
In stark contrast to Jimenez, Garcia Rodriguez is enjoying his rookie season on the European Tour after gaining his card via the Challenge Tour and set a new course record with his opening 62.
The 31-year-old raced to the turn in 29 with five birdies and an eagle and although he bogeyed the 10th, he responded with birdies on the 13th and 14th and finished eagle-birdie after a dropped shot on the 16th.
“It’s my dream all the time to be on the European Tour and it’s my first low score,” said Garcia Rodriguez, who also enjoyed the company of Jimenez earlier in the week.
“For me he’s the best, he’s the boss,” he added. “I played with him two days ago in a practice round and he’s incredible. He’s 56 years old and he’s a great example for me.”
Larrazabal carded nine birdies in his 64 and rescued a bogey on the 14th despite losing a ball off the tee.
Welshman Oliver Farr is three shots off the pace after a seven-under-par 65, with England’s Ashley Chesters and Danish teenager Rasmus Hojgaard a stroke further back.