Evergreen Jimenez, 56, leads in record bid


Vienna (AFP)

Veteran Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez rolled back the years on Friday to claim a two-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Austrian Open, as the 56-year-old looks to shatter his own record as the European Tour's oldest winner.

Jimenez grabbed the headlines at the first European Tour event, co-sanctioned with the second-tier Challenge Tour, following a four-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world number 687, playing just his second European Tour competition of the year as he usually competes on the senior circuits, carded a seven-under-par second round of 65 to reach 11-under for the tournament.

He leads a group of five players -- Dutchman Joost Luiten, Scots Marc Warren and Craig Howie, Italy's Renato Paratore and German Nicolai von Dellingshausen -- by two strokes.

"I'm playing very well," Jimenez, who has spent the last four months in the Dominican Republic, told europeantour.com.

"It feels great. Four months without competing, it's nice getting back into a tournament and feeling the tension again.

"I was excited to get back. I miss the competition. I can't remember the last time I had four months holidays."

He is already the oldest ever winner on the European Tour, setting the current record when he won the 2014 Spanish Open, his 21st Tour title, aged 50 years and 133 days.

That was the third time he had broken the record, having originally set a new mark aged 48 at the 2012 Hong Kong Open before successfully defending that title the following year.

The oldest victor on either of the two major tours was American great Sam Snead, aged 52 when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open on the PGA Tour.

Jimenez looked to be feeling the pressure late on Friday as he bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes when poised to threaten the course record of 63, but he quickly bounced back with a closing birdie to ensure he remained in pole position heading into the weekend.

He first played on the European Tour in 1988.