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Almost Vijay!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez spoke to Tony about the exciting climax to last week’s tournament in Florida

“What a compelling finish we witnessed to the Honda Classic on Sunday! At one end of the spectrum Vijay Singh was trying to become the PGA Tour’s oldest winner and at the other, Keith Mitchell, a young unheralded professional, was attempting to break through for the first time.

In the end, Mitchell took the honours. All credit to him. It’s always good to see a rookie achieving his first victory and watching the joy it brings. He did it on a very penal course too. I used to live near Palm Beach Gardens and I’ve had more than my fair share of water-balls there.

I have to say that I was pulling for Vijay. It would have been an incredible story if he had managed to avoid a late three-putt and not missed another shortish putt.

He’s always had a tremendous work ethic, I’m not sure anyone has worked harder at his game over the years, and to keep trying to keep up with the young guns on the main tour at the age of 56 is almost unheard of.

Gary Player is probably held up as the golfer who worked the hardest at keeping up his fitness levels in later years and even he had focused his energies on the seniors tour in his mid-50s.

Vijay has always had a supple body and that gangling frame of his seems to keep him nice and flexible. He also still gets the club horizontal at the top of his swing, which is always a key factor.

Paul Azinger says Vijay goes round all day muttering to himself, “I’m the best putter in the world, I’m the best putter in the world’. That’s the hard part to get your head round as the years go by.

I played on the seniors tour for several years and I can tell you, it’s tough enough to keep up with the players on that circuit when it comes to putting, let alone having to try and keep up with the youngsters on the main tour.

For Keith, his win will be a game-changer. His confidence levels will have gone through the roof and he’ll have woken up on Monday morning without a care in the world, financially.

He can now pick and choose the tournaments he wants to compete in and that ‘playing from the boot of your car’ mentality that so many youngsters have to go through will also be a thing of the past for him.

It’s truly staggering the pace at which world golf has changed in the last 50 years. Keith picked up a cheque for $1.25 million on Sunday, I took home £1,000 for my first significant win in the 1967 Dunlop Masters at Royal St George’s, where I also recorded the first televised hole-in-one.

I’m bound to say that the prize money in golf today, and in many top-level sports, is obscene. I don’t know where it all comes from. I’m not complaining, though. Good luck to the players. They are certainly handsomely rewarded.

From a golfing standpoint, that win 52 years ago provided the impetus for me to go on and qualify for the US Tour later that season. A year later I was playing in the same final round three-ball as ‘The King’ , Arnold Palmer, in his own backyard, and Don January as I became the first European to win in America.

The rest, as they say, is history.