Miguel Angel Jimenez handles pressure, hoists Sanford International trophy

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Miguel Angel Jimenez entered Sunday’s final round of the Sanford International tied for the lead with Steve Stricker, the winner of the 2018 debut of the tournament.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The 56-year-old Spaniard was placed in a final group with Stricker and Darren Clarke, who’d shot a tournament-record 62 in the second round to get within a stroke of the leaders.” data-reactid=”23″>The 56-year-old Spaniard was placed in a final group with Stricker and Darren Clarke, who’d shot a tournament-record 62 in the second round to get within a stroke of the leaders.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jimenez continued playing like a man with designs on hoisting a trophy through the first half of the day, maintaining his lead alongside Stricker, though staying mindful of the hard-charging Steve Flesch and Scott Parel, a pair of Americans who would vault themselves into contention with a stellar third day.” data-reactid=”24″>Jimenez continued playing like a man with designs on hoisting a trophy through the first half of the day, maintaining his lead alongside Stricker, though staying mindful of the hard-charging Steve Flesch and Scott Parel, a pair of Americans who would vault themselves into contention with a stellar third day.

Jimenez had a one-stroke lead at 11-under after 11 holes when his group arrived at the 12th tee box, which sits on an overhang far above the fairway below. The course had become a little congested here, and Jimenez, Stricker and Clarke faced a wait before they could tee off.

So Jimenez found some shade with roped off lawn chairs near a concession canopy, and lit up a cigar while his wife joined him for a 10-minute cool off.

“You have to enjoy yourself and relax yourself,” Jimenez said. “There’s tension. I had 15 minutes to sit there, so I wanted to have a couple puffs, ya know. I wasn’t super nervous, just tense. You feel that pressure, but it’s nice to feel it.”

Feeling the pressure and then taking the edge off with a stogie served Jimenez well.

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Andy North hands Miguel Angel Jimenez the Sanford International trophy after winning with a final score of -14 on Sunday, September 13, at the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

Nicknamed “The Mechanic” for his interest in high performance cars, Jimenez got back to work after the layoff, using a gorgeous approach shot over water to set up a 10-foot eagle putt, which he sank, extending his lead and putting him on the path to being crowned 2020 Sanford International champion.

Flesch continued to come on strong, eagling No. 16 to pull even with Jimenez at 13-under, but Jimenez would birdie the same hole moments later to get to 14-under, and Flesch couldn’t muster another birdie to answer.

Jimenez knew going to the final hole he only needed par to win, and after a shaky tee shot put him in the rough, his second shot set him up for a 35-foot birdie putt. He didn’t need to make it to win, but doing so would’ve brought the house down at the first tournament to allow fans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jimenez read the putt perfectly but left it just an inch short, allowing him to tap in and doff his cap to the gallery in appreciation, knowing the trophy and $270,000 prize was secure. It’s the 10th Champions Tour win for Jimenez, making him the 39th player to reach double figures in tour wins.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Following Flesch in the final standings were Stricker and Bernhard Langer at -12, followed by Parel at -11, Jerry Kelly and David Toms at -10 and Ernie Els, Brandt Jobe, Scott McCarron and Glen Day at -9. John Daly had a strong showing in his first event since making his bladder cancer diagnosis public, finishing his 8-under round with a birdie on 18 that resulted in a lengthy and emotional ovation from the fans.” data-reactid=”54″>Following Flesch in the final standings were Stricker and Bernhard Langer at -12, followed by Parel at -11, Jerry Kelly and David Toms at -10 and Ernie Els, Brandt Jobe, Scott McCarron and Glen Day at -9. John Daly had a strong showing in his first event since making his bladder cancer diagnosis public, finishing his 8-under round with a birdie on 18 that resulted in a lengthy and emotional ovation from the fans.

“The tournament was very good – Flesch, Stricker, Bernhard – it was a very good field, tough,” said Jimenez, who went 65-66-65 on the weekend. “I was feeling the pressure at the end. Having fans on the golf course is something we were missing.”

When the final group was done and PGA officials descended on the green for the celebratory festivities, Jimenez was greeted with a hug and kiss from his wife, and after giving a brief speech thanking the fans, held the trophy aloft, kissed it, and lit a cigar, blowing puffs of smoke skyward in celebration. He took the podium for a press conference with a glass of wine and the still-lit cigar.

This was Jimenez’s first trip to South Dakota (though he promised it won’t be his last), and he made sure to enjoy himself.

“You only get one life,” Jimenez said. “You’re dead for a lot longer than you’re alive. All you can do is enjoy yourself. That’s the big thing. Take what’s coming, try to be good and enjoy the people around yourself. That’s life.”

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