Ace propels Jimenez into share of Cologuard Classic lead
Feb 25, 2022, 2:34 AM | Updated: 4:58 pm
(Rick Wiley/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Miguel Angel Jimenez felt the breeze at his back and pulled a 6-iron, believing it would be the perfect club at Tucson National’s 196-yard seventh hole.
He was dead on.
Jimenez’s ace propelled him to a 6-under 66 in breezy conditions Friday to match Jeff Sluman for the first-round lead at the Cologuard Classic.
“The ball never left the flag,” Jimenez said. “Piece of luck it was a hole-in-one there and I put myself 4-under par.”
Jimenez won the PGA Tour Champions’ season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii and kick-started his round at Tucson National with the ace. The 58-year-old Spaniard overcame a bogey on the par-5 eighth with three birdies on the back nine to match Sluman.
The 64-year-old Sluman opened with a birdie on the par-4 first hole and added three more to turn in 4-under 32. He had consecutive birdies at Nos. 13-14 for his best PGA Tour Champions round since a 66 in the 2018 Regions Tradition.
Sluman, who didn’t have a bogey in the opening round, hasn’t won on the senior circuit since 2014.
“Tucson’s been good to me, Tucson’s been bad to me at times, or I’ve been bad to myself when I’m here,” said Sluman, who won the 1997 Tucson Chrysler Classic. “I’ve had some success here and kind of makes it feel like if I play well, at least I know how to play the golf course.”
Tom Lehman tied for the lead at 6 under with a birdie on the par-5 17th, but failed to get up and down at No. 18 for a bogey to shoot 67. Woody Austin had seven birdies and Rod Pampling went bogey free to both shoot 67.
Chris DiMarco and Jerry Kelly were among six players at 68.
Reigning Charles Schwab Cup season champion Bernhard Langer had three birdies, but bogeyed No. 18 after hitting into the water on the par 4 to shoot 2-under 70. The 64-year-old struggled to get putts to fall in the desert a week after breaking his own mark as the oldest tour winner by going wire to wire at the Chubb Classic.
Langer is two wins behind Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions mark of 45.
An 11-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, Jimenez followed up his win in Hawaii with a fifth in Florida last week. He had consecutive birdies on No. 2-3 and elated one of the biggest galleries at Tucson National when his tee shot at No. 7 took two hops and trickled into the hole.
Jimenez got up and down from a greenside bunker on the par-5 17th for birdie, then just missed a long birdie putt on No. 18 to remain tied with Sluman.
“I couldn’t see the hole with the shade, with the sun coming to my eye,” Jimenez said. “I hit a beautiful putt there and I said, `Looks very good, very nice line.'”
A six-time winner on the PGA Tour, Sluman picked up six PGA Tour Champions wins in seven seasons after turning 50, but has not been close to winning again since finishing third at the 2017 Chubb Classic.
Sluman has had one top-10 finish in 55 starts the past three seasons and opened 2022 with ties for 23rd and 68th. He did finished his final round at Tiburon Golf Club’s Black Course with three straight birdies last week, which put him in a good frame of mind headed to the desert.
“I kind of felt like I straightened my swing out a little bit there, then came right here and got some good practice in Tuesday and all that,” he said. “You know, here we go. Golf at this age, except for Bernhard, is a little bit of a mystery at times.”
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