April 17, 2014
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

International winners and odd records

By David Mackintosh
Golfing Traveller

Example this past weekend: in South Africa, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn won the NedBank Challenge. On the European Tour at the Hong Kong Open Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez defended the title. In Taipei, Taiwan, New Zealand’s Lidia Ko won the World Ladies Masters in her second professional start. And in Argentina, Marcelo Rozo became the first Colombian to win the country’s national title, while North American Ryan Blaum captured the PGA Latinoamérica Tour’s Order of Merit and with it promotion to the Tour.
A weekend of sharp-edged contrasts and extraordinary highlights, not least the exhilarating conclusion to the 18-player World Challenge invitational in California, where Zach Johnson outlasted Tiger Woods in playoff, saving par at the 72nd hole with a 60yd pitch-in to stay tied with Woods at 13-under par, after dumping his first approach into a hazard.
Jiménez, who will turn fifty next month, credits regular daily stretching exercises for his golfing longevity and undeniably he’s the best almost-senior around. This defensive of the Hong Kong title was his fourth victory at this venue and of his twenty European Tour wins, thirteen have come since his 40th birthday.
Up the road as it were, in Taiwan Lidia Ko, just sweet sixteen but already a household name after winning four professional events as an amateur (including two Canadian Women’s Opens) seems destined to join the legends. In what was only her second outing as a pro she bested all on the Taiwan and Korean Tours with an 11-under par total for a three-stroke victory over South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu.
Records on the age difference between two professionals winning on two different international tours on the same weekend are sparse, but I’d take an even-money wager that 34 years, three months and 19 days sets the high bar.
They used to put Jean van De Velde and Thomas Bjorn in the same category, tragic figures whose worlds fell apart after Open Championship disasters. Few can forget Bjorn haplessly taking three swipes in the sand on the 16th at Royal St. Georges in 2003, gifting the lead and fame to Ben Curtis.
But sometimes time heals all, and at age 42 the revitalized Dane has now won twice this year, earlier in the season claiming the European Masters, the NedBank his 15th European Tour title.
At home a 24-year old novice professional of just three months standing claimed Latin America’s top professional golf title, staying comfortably ahead of all opposition on a blistering hot afternoon in the Buenos Aires Delta.
Colombia’s Rozo set the tone of the day with birdies at the two opening holes, extending his overnight lead to six, continuing trouble-free to victory and another odd record. When Roberto De Vicenzo claimed his ninth National Open in 1974 he’d been playing professional golf for thirty-four years longer than Rozo!
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