We Talk to the Coolest Guy in Golf
The game of golf is a very international game. The top ten players in the World Rankings represent seven different countries. This week at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship those players and more from all over the globe will meet to decide the match play champion. Tiger Woods is the defending champion and this will mark his return to the tour from his eight month layoff. Last we saw Woods he was battling one of the true characters of the tour, Rocco Mediate. It was an epic battle and Rocco matched Woods’s tenacity and courage with his wit and self deprecating humor. That is one of the intriguing facets of this game; you never know when one of the “characters” will pop up on the leader board and add some color to the tournament. Despite the complaint that so many golfers look and act the same, there are plenty of colorful, interesting and lively characters that roam the fairways sharing their unique and sometime offbeat personalities.
Most of the headlines and stories in golf surround the top players. There is never a shortage of stories on Tiger or Phil or Sergio, but that does not mean they are the best or most interesting stories. Tiger may be the best golfer in the world and I would not argue that he is a great story most of the time. In the measure of the “coolest” golfer, Woods may be the choice of most fans. After all, he is the best golfer, rich beyond comprehension, powerful enough to have his own Gatorade and has a swimsuit model for a wife. That’s a pretty cool life. Unfortunately you can’t buy “cool”. Cool is born. Cool is in the genes. Tiger is pretty cool but it was an acquired cool. My choice for coolest golfer isn’t Tiger, or Camilo, or AK or even Tommy Armour III. It is Miguel Angel Jiménez, the coolest guy in golf.
If you have a chance to see Miguel on the course, you’ll see a man that is self-assured and focused, happy and at ease, and so comfortable with himself that he exudes confidence and composure, but most of all cool. Miguel struts along the course with a bold stride and elegance that tells you he is his own man. He is well known for his trademark ponytail and is easily identified by his profile. He is no flat belly, but rather his physique shows the accumulation of a life well lived. As he walks from shot to shot, shoulders back, head high, he is no longer a golfer, he looks more like a toreador entering the ring.
Miguel caddied as a youth and started playing golf at fifteen, later than most professionals. He is one of seven brothers, turned pro in 1982 and has spent most of his career on the European Tour. He has fifteen career victories and was number four on the European Order of Merit in 1998,’99,’04 and 2008. He enjoys fine wine and fast cars. Miguel is nicknamed the “Mechanic”, but he is more at home behind the wheel of his Ferrari.
Jiménez has played well enough throughout his career to play on three Ryder Cups. He was the oldest member of the European team at the Ryder Cup last year and is looked up to as a true gentlemen and sportsmen by his teammates. He is recognized by his fellow golfers as a man of fierce competitive drive, but at the same time one who displays respect and class at all times.
The Jiménez mystique is well known in the golfing world. He enjoys the finer things; good cigars, great wine, superior food, fast cars and good friends. He denies that he is the coolest, but that is what makes him even cooler; his ambivalence towards any attempt to label him. He is a world class golfer, a husband and father, a unique individual and a true character. He is the coolest guy in golf.
Links Life Golf was fortunate enough to have Miguel answer some questions for us. He does not think he’s cool, but we have to disagree.
Links Life Golf: What are your goals for 2009?
Miguel: My goals are both on and off the golf course and the priority has to be to stay happy and healthy all the time. Certainly I am not getting any younger, so if I am able to continue to win tournaments in 2009 and to compete at the highest level, then that is all I can ask for. I have been involved with tournament promotion in the past couple of years, in particular the Open de Andalucia on the European Tour, so another goal is to continue to put something back into the game of golf that has given me such a great life.
LLG: You were on winning Ryder Cups in 1999 and 2004. What are your feelings on the 2008 cup?
Miguel: I was fortunate to be on the winning Ryder Cup team in 2004, and also the losing team in 1999 and more recently in 2008. Of course it’s always great to be on the successful side, but either way it’s a fantastic event to be a part of, and 2008 in Louisville was no different.
LLG: You always conduct yourself with such class and sportsmanship. Do you feel that this is part of the tradition of golf?
Miguel: Thank you for those nice comments. Yes, I really do feel that to be a true professional sportsman it is paramount to show respect to both your fellow competitors and to the crowd who have come to watch you play. I grew up in the belief that golf should be a gentleman’s game, so I always try to uphold those traditions.
LLG: Has the sportsmanship been taken out of the Ryder Cup?
Miguel: The Ryder Cup will always be a very passionate and competitive event and everyone shows their emotions in different ways. But what’s great about it is that at the end of the week, players from both teams can stand and have a beer together and celebrate a great experience. From my point of view, I played my singles match at Valhalla against Jim Furyk who sealed the Cup for the USA, and he was a true gentleman, as he always is, throughout our match.
LLG: You look so relaxed when you play. How do you do it?
Miguel: I try to remain as relaxed as possible both on and off the golf course. That is just my character, and perhaps the cigar before I tee off helps a little too.
LLG: How are you able to compete with players half your age?
Miguel: So far in my career I have been very fortunate that I have not suffered much with injury. I do go to a gym regularly but probably not with the same intensity as the younger guys do, however my body has always been very flexible and I believe in a good stretching regimen before hitting any balls. I also make sure I have plenty of good Spanish olive oil in my diet which is great for maintaining healthy bones and joints.
LLG: Do you think the Open Championship is your best chance for a major victory?
Miguel: I would be absolutely delighted with any victory in a Major, and The Open Championship would be special, particularly with its great history. Actually I have pretty good record over the years round Augusta at The Masters so who knows, maybe that could be the one?
LLG: Any chance you will be playing more in the United States?
Miguel: My next three tournaments are in the USA. I am playing the WGC Accenture Match Play, followed by the Honda Classic and the WGC-CA Championship in Florida. Apart from the Majors, I am undecided what else I may play (in the) USA, but my focus will continue to remain on the European Tour.
LLG: If the US lifted the ban on Cuban cigars, would that help get you to the states more frequently?
Miguel: No, no, it’s nothing to do with cigars! It is simply that my home Tour is the European Tour and my home is Spain, and I like to travel back home each week after a tournament to spend time relaxing with my family and friends.
LLG: Was this your dream as a kid? Golf, travel, fast cars?
Miguel: Yes, as a teenager I started working at a local golf club as a caddie and when I had a chance I would hit some balls myself. I practiced so much, hoping that one day I could become a professional golfer. Once I gained my Tour card I never had to go back to the Tour School and thankfully things just got better from then on … and the cars got faster and faster! Golf has given me so much and I am very grateful to have achieved so many of my dreams.
LLG: How does it feel to be the coolest guy on tour?
Miguel: Am I the coolest guy on Tour? I am sure some of the young guys must be much cooler than I am!
Thanks to Miguel for his time and a special thanks to Sarah Phillips at MMI Worldwide for making this interview happen.