UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio - Miguel Angel Jimenez was back on top on a Saturday, this time in the U.S. Senior Open at difficult Scioto County Club. The 52-year-old Spanish player was looking for a better late Sunday afternoon result after missing chances in his last two events.
Jimenez put himself in position to break out of the title funk Saturday, finishing off a 1-under 69 in gusty wind and sheets of rain to take a one-stroke lead. He was in a lot better shape in Scotland and Minnesota in the last two tournaments - and came up empty.
Three weeks ago at Carnoustie in the Senior British Open, Jimenez took a four-stroke lead into the last day, only to shoot 75 and tie for third - three strokes behind winner Paul Broadhurst. Last week in the 3M Championship, Jimenez was a stroke ahead entering the final round and ended up losing when Joe Durant shot 63 and eagled the first hole of a playoff.
''Just keep playing golf and give myself patience. That's the main thing,'' Jimenez said. ''Whatever happens, happens. Obviously, at the Open in Scotland, I lost that tournament there without playing bad, and here tomorrow we have to play 18 holes, and whatever happens happens. Just keep focused and enjoy yourself. That's the main thing.''
Jimenez won in Mississippi in March for his third career PGA Tour Champions victory. He has 15 regular European Tour victories, the last in the 2014 Spanish Open at a tour-record 50 years, 133 days. And ''The Mechanic'' is famous for the quirky, fun-loving ways that have prompted some to call him ''The Most Interesting Man in the World.''
''Of course, you have to enjoy yourself, and I enjoy myself,'' Jimenez said. ''You look at my office, no? It's a great life, no? That's what I want to do in my life is play golf. I will do what I want to do in my life for a living, and golf is not my job. It's also my hobby. Of course, when I finish here, I'm going to have a big fat cigar with a nice glass of wine and enjoy my wife and my family and my people who are here.''
Jimenez had a 3-under 207 total on Jack Nicklaus' boyhood course. Gene Sauers was second after a 71. Ian Woosnam (70), Loren Roberts (70) and senior newcomer Billy Mayfair (75) were tied for third at 1 over.
Jimenez was one of just four players who were below par for the day. Three strokes behind Joey Sindelar entering the round, Jimenez had four birdies and three bogeys, with the three bogeys coming in a four-hole stretch. After making two birdies on the front nine, he birdied the 12th, bogeyed 13 and 14, birdie 15, bogeyed 16 and finished with two pars just as sheets of driving rain rolled in on top of the suffocating heat and humidity that has worn down the players all week.
''The conditions, they are tough today, especially because of the wind,'' Jimenez said. ''The greens were softer on the first two rounds, but it's the gusting wind there that (makes it) not easy to choose the club, the right club. Sometimes it will go a place that you don't (want) to.''
Sauers also battled the wind and had four birdies and five bogeys.
''The heat, the wind, the rain on the last hole - it was a brutal day,'' said the 53-year-old Sauers, winless on the senior tour.
Sindelar had a 77 to drop into a tie for sixth at 2 over.
''Golf's hard,'' the 58-year-old former Ohio State player said. ''U.S. Open's harder. And I thought for the most part, I was pretty happy with the way I played. It wasn't horrible. Just a couple of uglies, and it played hard out there. Problem is, we've got a pretty good guy out there in the lead and a couple more really good ones right behind him.''
First-round leader Vijay Singh was 6 over, following his opening 66 with two 75s.