Smyth yearns for swinging sixties

A winner at 59, Des Smyth now wants to win at the age of 60. Picture: Phil Inglis (Getty Images)Des Smyth wants to win in his swinging 60s after losing his oldest winner’s record to Miguel Angel Jiménez.

The Mechanic’s victory in the Hong Kong Open at 48 years and 10 months beat Smyth’s 2001 Madeira Islands Open best by 284 days.

The Drogheda ace got up at dawn to watch the popular Spaniard bring home his 19th tour title and move to 11th in the list of all-time winners on the European Tour.

But he insisted that he’d be going for another personal record on the European Senior Tour next term when he will be trying to win in his 60s for the first time.

“It was good while it lasted but all good things come to an end and Miguel was fantastic,” Smyth said of the Jimenez’s impressive victory on Sunday.

“When I saw he was going well this week, I said, I think it’s going to go this time.

“I got up at about 7.30 and watched the last four or five holes. He played like a stallion.

“He played flawless golf and dropped two shots in the 72 holes and did drop a shot in his last 54 holes.

“You don’t get much better than that. He’s an incredible player.”

With eight European Tour wins and another seven individual titles as a senior, Smyth has won in every decade since he notched his first tour win in 1979, claiming the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters at Woburn in September.

But the 59-year old is determined to keep on winning and he’s almost looking forward to celebrating his 60th birthday early next year.

“I’ve won in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s,” he said. “But if I win next year I will have won in my 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s because I turn 60 in February.

“So if I get a win next year, that will keep me happy.

“I don’t know if I’d be a Super-60, but to win on a main tour of any description is very difficult, so to do it for that length of time would certainly give me a lot of pleasure.”

As for losing his 11-year record as the tour’s oldest winner, he beamed: “That’s it down the drain. But in fairness I thought it would go before now.

“Mark McNulty and Eduardo Romero were playing so well and then of course Tom Watson should have won the Open in Turnberry in 2009 when he was 59. We were all pulling for him

“But Miguel looked the most likely and he was brilliant. I remember him well coming out on tour in 1988 and he was always a hard worker.

“I didn’t know him well because he didn’t have much English and you can’t make friends with everyone when you are in contact with over 300 people every day of the week between players and caddies.

“I smiled and nodded to him as you do. But I did notice that his work ethic was tremendous. He was a late starter but he got better year after year and has now won 19 tournaments on that tour. Tremendous.

“Off the top of my head I can only think of about half a dozen who have won more.”

Jimenez’s 19th titles actually leaves him 11th in the list of European Tour winners behind Seve Ballesteros (50 wins), Bernhard Langer (42), Tiger Woods (38), Colin Montgomerie (31), Nick Faldo (30), Ian Woosnam (29), Ernie Els (27), Jose Maria Olazabal (23), Lee Westwood (22) and Sam Torrance (21).

Christy O’Connor Snr won 24 times as a tour professional though just one of those wins, the 1972 Carrolls International, came after the formation of the European Tour.

The leading Irish winners on the European Tour are Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, who are tied for 15th place in the list with 14 wins each with Smyth ranked joint 31st thanks to the eight wins he recorded between 1979 and that historic 2001 victory in Madeira.