With two of the world’s top 100 golfers – Eddie Pepperell and Joost Luiten – in attendance, this week’s Hero Open is far from boasting the strongest course in the history of the European Tour. But for at least two of the 132 contestants in the Forest of Arden in the English Midlands, the 1 million euro event will be a special occasion, no matter how well or badly they perform.
Miguel Angel Jimenez will begin his 707th European tour, breaking the longtime record of ex Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance. As a measure of the admirable longevity of the 56-year-old Spaniard, only 12 men made more than 600 appearances, no matter 700. Jimenez also maintained a remarkable level of competitiveness. Six years after becoming the oldest winner of the European Tour (50 years and 133 days) at the 2014 Open de España, Jimenez led halfway through the Austrian Open just two weeks ago.
That David Drysdale is about to start his 500th Euro Tour this week isn’t all that remarkable – he’s the 43rd player to hit that mark – except that the 45-year-old Scot is also approaching one of the Old World’s most esoteric circuits. “. All those beginnings came without a win yet. Only Malcolm Mackenzie can boast a similar level of commendable but ultimately unsatisfactory perseverance. Hope remains, however, for Drysdale considering that Mackenzie eventually crossed the finish line first. The Englishman achieved his solitary victory on the tour, the 2002 French Open, on his 509th attempt. So Drysdale, who has four second places, 34 top 10 and 284 cuts made so far, 499 goes to break his streak without success, has at most another nine attempts before “breaking” Mackenzie’s “record”.
As always, Jimenez is approaching his record week with the air of someone who is about to embark on the most pleasant few days imaginable. We can read as read that his notoriously eccentric stretching routine will be part of his pre-round warm-up; who will snort with a big cigar on the way; and that at least a glass or two of his favorite Rioja will disappear in the throat every evening.
“It’s an icon, isn’t it?” Pepperell says. “And not just the European Tour. It is an icon for golf. Of that generation of players, it’s probably in the top five globally in terms of popularity. Having this shows how charismatic it is. I have played with him a few times and he is always very friendly. How can you not love his vision? I have nothing but admiration for him. “
This is practically the universal vision of Jimenez, who made four appearances in the Ryder Cup between 1999 and 2010 and has won nine times, including two major ones, on the PGA Tour Champions in the United States since he turned 50. And, as always, his pre interview with the tournament was imbued with typically self-deprecating humor, all expressed in his sometimes barely decipherable version of the English language.
“When you start, you never know where you will end,” says the 21-time European Tour winner. “But over the years, I’m setting records. I have played for 32 years with many great players. Seve Ballesteros. Jack Nicklaus. Gary Player. Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson. And now with the new ones coming. I had a beautiful life. “
However, there was a turning point. At 33 years old and with only two wins to his name, Jimenez was assistant captain of Ballesteros in the 1997 Ryder Cup in Valderrama.
“It was an extraordinary experience for me,” says Jimenez. “I was in the right place at the right time. I learned a lot. I had played well before, but it helped me to be there. I haven’t changed though. Why should i change? I am myself. I’m Miguel Angel Jimenez, someone who has liked the same things all his life. It’s me. For example, you should place a bomb on my side to take me away from the golf course. The luckiest thing that has ever happened to me is finding golf in my life. I do what I want to do. For me, golf is a way of life. “
To his credit, the world no. 313 Drysdale manages the inevitable “why didn’t you win?” questions with equanimity. Having twice lost his handful of euros and once lost to the tour qualifying school with one shot, he is rightly proud of his persistence in the face of a lot of diversity.
And his career has not been entirely unsuccessful. Twice winner of the Challenge Tour, the former assistant of the Dunbar Golf Club (at that time played as a scorer alongside John Daly in the 1992 Open Championship in Muirfield) has accumulated almost € 6 million in cash prizes, one sum that brings him to 113th place in the career earnings list. He also represented Scotland at the World Cup and was a fixture in the tour guide precision category. Few have reached multiple fairways in the 12 years since the Berwickshire resident made the last of his 10 visits to the Q school.
“I will never be truly satisfied as a professional until I win on tour, but the life he has given me is an extreme fortune,” says Drysdale. “It’s not something you’re going to achieve when you start playing professionally to attend 500 events during the European tour, but it’s a fantastic result. I’ve had experiences and made friends all over the world. I know how lucky I am in this sense. “
Maybe so, but luck wasn’t on Drysdale’s side earlier this year at the Qatar Masters, where he only lost to Jorge Campillo’s fifth extra hole. More than once, the Spaniard came out of the distance to stay alive and then complete the victory.
“It was difficult to watch Jorge make all those putts,” says Drysdale. “It could not literally be missing. At the first hole of the playoffs, the fact that he had risen and descended from the fairway bunker was incredible. But that’s what Jorge does. It is an absolute machine for long shots and to be honest with him, every single putt he made in the playoff was right in the middle of the cup. He putts and deserved to win. “
And so, after all he’s been through, David Drysdale does it. There’s still time. At least 207 other events, if Jimenez has something to do.