It was a big one ' the European Tours BMW International. It was the fourth time this year he has done it. Two of the victories, incidentally, were not in Europe, but that is the floating crap game that the European Tour is forced to become during the cold-weather months. It is during those months that Miguel Angel Jimenez leaves his native Spain and travels to Asia to pick up some loose change. This year he won the Johnnie Walker while playing in Thailand in January and the BMW Asia Open in China.
They call him The Mechanic on the European Tour because, in his youth, he used to work at a garage. No, he didnt tinker with the cars - he swept up the dirt in the body shop. But that was close enough to the grease-monkey business for his friends on the tour, so The Mechanic he became.
And though you may not have heard much about him if youre totally into American golf, this year hes become the most successful of all the Spanish golfers. That is going it a bit when you consider that Sergio Garcia is also from Spain. But The Mechanic was No. 1 on the European Ryder Cup points list this year, in addition to his four wins this season. There is no other Spanish golfer who can make that claim.
Jimenez hardly looks like a professional athlete. For starters, his hair is way too mod for this rather plain-looking guy. He used to wear it in a high Afro, but now he has clipped it into a little ponytail. Its been blond, then brown, then reddish-brown.
'People say to me, 'Hey, what you do to your hair?' Lots of jokes,' he explained. 'I said, 'Well, you see all the other people, they start to grow hair, the colors, you know. People start to wear nice funny shoes also.''
And he has a face that has a million miles on it. Jimenez looks like some guy 50 years old who hangs out at the corner pub. Instead hes only 40, 10 years removed from the Champions Tour.
The Mechanic tried it in America once. He dabbled around with the U.S. tour in 2002. But he wasnt overly successful here. Miguel is the ultimate homeboy. He feels relaxed on the European Tour, even when the tour isnt in Europe. America was just too far removed from his comfort zone to ever begin to feel like he was at home.
Jimenez missed five of his first six cuts in America and never remotely approached his success in Europe. His curiosity satisfied, he beat a hasty retreat back across the Atlantic and resumed tuning up his Ryder Cup engine.
Its family, he explained, like my wife and two kids at home. My kids are in school. Those are the hard things, you know.
I am a professional golfer, and I like to play with the best people. But you have the other side of the coin, you know. I cannot have everything in life. You have to sacrifice some things, and this time, I dont know how long I am going to compete. Everybody has to suffer something.
He was speaking in 02 at the Bob Hope, but it was his take on the Great American Experiment. The Great American Experiment didnt last too long. He teed it up in the U.S. 19 times, missed the cut nine times, and then happily headed back to Spain. In Europe, once again in the company of familiar surroundings, he resumed his highly successful ways.
You must enjoy yourself every moment you live, he explained. There are more important things than playing golf.
The Mechanic loves good wine, good conversation and good company. He was lonely in America, where he lived out of hotels for the year. He was, frankly, lost. He didnt speak the language quite as well as the others, and except for Garcia, there was no one else from Spain playing the American tour. He was never so happy to return home.
He played in the Ryder Cup one time ' in 1999 in Brookline. He made quite a splash, playing five times that year. His career, in short, has been very successful for a kid who didnt pick up the game until he was 15. He spent most of his younger life caddying.
But now, The Mechanic is on top of the world in Europe. In September, hell be back in America to try it again. He hopes the Ryder Cup will be more successful than the experiment of 02.
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