Two of the good guys won on Sunday proving that when it comes to golf, advancing years mean nothing in the face of class and flair.
First, the phlegmatic, 46-year old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez won for the third time this season by claiming his 18th European Tour title - and his 11th since he turned 40 - at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.
Then 57-year old Des Smyth won the Travis Perkins Senior Masters at Woburn to claim victory for a fifth successive decade since he turned professional and a cheque for €47,853.
The popular Drogheda man carded a three-under par 69 on a blustery afternoon at Woburn to win for the first time in three years.
The Laytown and Bettystown man triumphed by three strokes on 10 under par from overnight leader Carl Mason, who came home in 40 to card a disappointing 74.
The Englishman looked odds-on to enter the record books through nine holes as he extended his lead to three, but a disastrous four-putt double-bogey on the par five 14th to Smyth’s birdie turned things on their head and saw him trail by two.
Smyth took advantage of the three-shot swing and although he bogeyed the 16th to set up a tense finish, he rubber stamped his victory on the 18th with an emphatic closing birdie that left him feeling like Seve Ballesteros.
“I felt like Seve today as he was the best at making it happen and it was one of those rounds where it did happen today,” said a delighted Des. “I putted much better this week having changed my putting style slightly and I could see the lines much better and that gave me the confidence to hit the putts.
“It was fantastic to win in front of these crowds and it is my fifth decade of winning, from the 70s to now and that was a goal of mine. I am really pleased to have got that.”
Smyth won his first professional tour title in 1979 when, five years after he turned professional, he eagled the 18th to beat Nick Price in the final of the Sun Alliance Match Play Championship at Fulford.
That kick-started an outstanding professional career than saw him win eight European Tour titles and earn two Ryder Cup caps.
[For a in-depth look at Des Smyth’s career, see Chapter 7 of Out of Bent and Sand - A centenary history of Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club 1909—2009]
He has now won in every decade since then and still holds the record as the oldest winner on the European Tour, having captured the Madeira Island Open aged 48 years and 34 days in 2001.
Mason will hope that there will be plenty more opportunities to break the record he holds with Tommy Horton after a final round that never really got going.
He said: “Four putts on the 14th was not good. That made me unsteady on the greens unfortunately. I had some good chances out there, a couple of horseshoes but pleased with the way I played. It is a tough course and under pressure it is real tough, doesn’t get any tougher.
“Des got a couple of nice breaks and made some nice saves and I can’t complain. Normally, putting my best I would have been way ahead but just wasn’t one of those days. You can’t win them all.”
Jiménez became the fifth member of Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup since to win since the start of August when he survived a late scare to win in Crans Montana at the 22nd attempt.
According to the Press Association’s Mark Garrod:
The 46-year-old Spaniard, six clear with seven to play, had that slashed to one by Celtic Manor team-mate Edoardo Molinari and then hit a tree with his tee shot to the short 16th.
But the Italian was the one to bogey there, while Jimenez got up and down from a fairway bunker for a birdie on the next and, with a closing par, triumphed by three.
It follows the wins by Ross Fisher at the Irish Open, Martin Kaymer in the USPGA Championship, Peter Hanson at the Czech Open and Molinari in last week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
Jimenez, making his 22nd successive trip to Crans-sur-Sierre, finally got his hands on the trophy with a four-under-par 67 and 21-under total of 263.
He becomes the eighth oldest winner in European Tour history and the first to record three victories this season.
Incredibly, 11 of his 18 titles have come since he turned 40 and he has earned £8million in that time compared to £5million in his previous 22 years as a professional.
“I made a good recovery at the 16th - that was probably the key to the day,” said Jimenez after being sprayed with champagne and then being encouraged to jump in the pond by the final green.
“I love to come here. It’s not only my two times second, it’s the amount of times I have finished top 10 and been in contention, so it means a lot.”