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  • Alistair Tait

Why no protests over Jiménez’s Austrian adventure?

Miguel Ángel Jiménez is playing in this week’s Austrian Open.

Where are the howls of protest?

Remember when Vijay Singh signed up to play in the first Korn Ferry tournament post lockdown? The tournament was held practically in Singh’s backyard in Ponte Vedre and he was eligible to play. Yet, you’d have thought Singh was about to rob a child’s piggy bank when all he wanted to do was get back to playing competitive golf. Many said he was out of order. Korn Ferry player Brady Schnell labelled him “a true piece of trash” and “a complete turd” before recanting and apologising.

Somehow the argument went that because the 57-year-old, 34-time PGA Tour winner had squillions in career earnings he shouldn’t have been taking a place from an up-and-coming player on the Korn Ferry Tour. LPGA players like Anna Nordqvist had won on mini tours, veteran Alex Čejka also teed it up in mini tours while the PGA Tour was suspended. Yet there was no criticism.

Singh didn’t play in the end. Perhaps the opprobrium he received changed his mind, although that’s hard to believe given the Fijian has never much cared what people say about him.

Scroll forward to Jiménez playing this week in Austria. The parallels with Singh are patently obvious. The Austrian Open is a co-sanctioned event between the European Tour and European Challenge Tour. Jiménez is 56, he’s a 21-time European Tour winner with over €24 million in career earnings.

You’d have thought he’d have faced the same barrage of criticism. Not. A. Word.

"It feels great,” Jiménez after taking a two-shot lead into the third round. “Four months without competing, it’s nice getting back into a tournament and feeling the tension again
"I was excited to get back. I miss the competition. I can’t remember the last time I had four months holidays.”

There you have it. He’s missed the competition. Just as Singh had missed competing. Tour pros wanting to get back to doing what they love? Who knew?

As I previously wrote regarding Singh, if a player, any player, has a right to play in a tournament that should be the end of the matter. No one howls in protest when former champions play in the Masters or the Open Championship even though they haven’t got a chance in hell of winning. Those who argued against Singh competing at Ponte Vedre also argue that former Masters and Open winners deserve their places because they're past winners.

Just as Singh was eligible for that Korn Ferry tournament, Jiménez has earned his place in Austria and good luck to him. Besides, the fact he held the 36-hole lead proves he’s not there to make up the numbers.

Jiménez already holds the record as the European Tour’s oldest winner. He was 50 years and 133 days old when he won the 2014 Spanish Open. No doubt there will be much celebrating if he breaks his own record in Austria. I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t have been the same outpouring of celebration had Singh won that Korn Ferry tournament.

I wonder why?


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