AUGUSTA, GA. – You may know him as the Mechanic, his preferred nickname. Or The Most Interesting Golfer In the World, the nickname conferred upon him by those who think he bears a resemblance to the star of a certain beer commercial.
This week, he is becoming the star of a tradition unlike any other — his bizarre, pre-round, Yoga-with-a-golf-club stretching routine that has made entire galleries turn away in horror.
He’s Miguel Angel Jimenez. He likes wine, cigars and golf, probably in that order. He’s 50, carries around the gut of a man whose considerable earnings buy him many considerable meals, and he shot the best round of the Masters in the third round on Saturday, gyrating his way into an improbable place on the leaderboard.
“Beautiful day there, just light breeze sometime,’’ the Spaniard said in heavily accented English. “Great to play golf on a day like that.’’
A day after shooting a 76, he shot a 66 on Saturday, leaving him tied for fifth entering the final round, two shots behind the leaders.
“If you are 50, that doesn’t mean you cannot play well,’’ he said. “I’m still moving. I’m still flexible. I still hit the ball — I hit the ball longer than ever.
“The main thing through the years, when you reach the 50s, it’s not about how you feel now, because the people take more care of themselves and are more healthier at this age, no? Probably the main thing is that I’m doing what I like in my life, and I’m enjoying it completely.’’
That’s always evident. Jimenez plays with such obvious joy that his competitiveness is easily overlooked, but he said Saturday that he will avoid playing certain senior events available to players 50 and older so he can compete for a spot on the European Ryder Cup team. If there is a player who would symbolize the difference between the attitudes of European golfers and Americans, it might be Jimenez, who would rather light a cigar than lift a dumbbell.
He doesn’t look very athletic, unless he’s wiggling his hips during that now-infamous stretching routine.
“Well, the fans like to see that,’’ Jimenez said, smiling. “That is a little funny, what you see there. But it helps to move the joints, you know. … You need to be flexible, and you need to be elastic and strong to be here.
“Sometimes I’m looking at myself on video, and I’m laughing, too. It’s nice. It’s bueno. But you know what? I never get injured.’’
Golf, like so many professional sports, has become a bastion of surgeries and specialists. Just this week, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson entered the tournament dealing with nagging injuries, and Tiger Woods missed it because of a back injury.
Maybe the secret to good health and good golf is to drink a little more wine, light a cigar, and hit the ball short and straight. Works for Jimenez.
“The thing I recommend to the young people is just enjoy what you are doing, make exercise to be healthy, not to overdo it,’’ Jimenez said.