“Smile,” the Old Man says. “Smile – because people forget to smile on the golf course.”
It is a shame Miguel Angel Jimenez was not paired Saturday with Jordan Spieth, for though they are as opposite as it is possible to find here at the Masters, the Spaniard they call “The Most Interesting Man in the World” has much to teach the one they are calling “The Phenom.”
On Saturday they were the two most interesting players on the course, 50-year-old Jimenez shooting a remarkable six-under-par 66 to stand at –3 for the tournament and a tie for fifth place, 20-year-old Speith putting together his third straight sup-par round to stand at –5, tied for first place with 36-hole-leader Bubba Watson.
When it was over, Spieth never so much as cracked a smile during his first interviews, at one point during a discussion about the tricky greens saying, in a rather comical world-weary manner, that “That’s just the Masters.”
“Smile,” Jimenez would have advised him. “Smile.”
The Old Man is 50 and, during his post-round interviews, had to fend off questions about whether he would stick with the regular tour or join the over-50 “Champions” Tour when this Masters is over. Not for a while, he told them.
The Young Man just turned 20, and the only real question for him is just how far he can go.
The young Texan was a college star and seemingly instantly, at 19, a winner on the PGA Tour when he took the 2013 John Deere Classic. In doing so, Spieth became the first teen to win in 72 years. And then he went out and won twice more before coming to Augusta with the chance to break Tiger Woods record as the youngest ever winner of the Masters.
The Old Man never went to college. One of seven brothers growing up in Malaga, Spain, he didn’t even take up the game until he was 15 and figured he’d rather be hitting the balls at the local range than picking them up.
It was fascinating Saturday afternoon to watch their names dance about the leaderboard, the Old Man scorching Augusta National with all the casual pleasure of a weekend golfer, while Spieth played with such effective determination that it seemed no hole, no course, could hold him back.
“This is the place I’ve always dreamed about,” said the young man. And Sunday, after a “Moving Day” jump that placed him atop the leader board, he could conceivably see his dream come true.
While it appeared for a while this hot afternoon as if the Old Man and the Young Man might even be paired together Sunday, Speith’s score means he will play with 2012 champion Watson, who began the day seven-under, took it to eight-under briefly, and then frittered away three of those treasured strokes.
Jimenez has never won a major, despite victories all over the world and a second in the U.S. Open and a third in the British Open. Spieth has for some time been predicted as one who could win one, or several – but this soon?
Spieth comes from the generation of golfers who tend to be super-serious on the course and surrounded by fitness, nutrition and golf experts. He would be an anomaly if he were not.
Spieth’s game is machine designed and efficient. Jimenez is self-taught and he even putts cross-hand. Speith is rail thin. Jimenez, on the other hand, has a neat little gut and looks a bit like a shore bird, skinny legs, round torso, long thin wings and even a tuft at the back of his head.
Jimenez comes from the Old World of golf. He has his own warm-up routine that is hilarious, using two irons as support and props as he leans and stretches and, at one point, works his wrists like a hockey player skating stepping out onto the ice for the first time, all the while clenching an unlighted cigar in his teeth. A video of his warm-up prior to the Open went viral.
He shrugs: “I look at myself sometimes on video and I laugh, too.”
Young Speith seems a very decent young man with a great many new fans, but watching him walk, lips welded tight, from the ninth green to the back nine was a reminder of how serious this is to such young men.
He is, after all, playing the course of his dreams. And yet, having pared the difficult 13th after missing a fair birdie opportunity, Speith walked off shaking his head in such disgust. Disgusted with a par on 13th?
On Friday, young Spieth mentioned a talk with former champion Ben Crenshaw and said, “Mr. Crenshaw says it best: the Masters brings out emotions in guys that aren’t emotional. I’m already emotional and I got to keep it on the down low.”
Jimenez is serious about his play, but light about life. He is as likely to talk about the wines of his region as his putting. “They should call me Miguel Angel Rioja!” he jokes. He loves Cuban cigars and cars so much the other players also call him “The Mechanic.”
‘It is important to enjoy the things that life brings you,” Jimenez told Cigar Aficionado magazine a few years back.
“It’s important, no, to love what you are doing?”
Good advice for an Old Man to pass on to a Young Man.
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