BELEK Turkey (Reuters) - The evergreen Miguel Angel Jimenez, boosted by an unlikely eagle two at his first hole, snatched the first-round lead in the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open with a blistering nine-under-par 63 on Thursday.
The veteran Spaniard came within a stroke of tying the course record at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal as he moved one ahead of Britain’s Ian Poulter.
A further shot adrift on 65 were Australian Wade Ormsby, Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe and Briton Tyrrell Hatton.
Jimenez made a spectacular start at the penultimate event of the European Tour season when his lob wedge at the par-four 10th, his opening hole, dived straight into the cup.
”That doesn’t happen every day,“ the 50-year-old from Malaga told reporters. ”What better way to start?
“Nine-under par is very nice. It’s special because I’ve been struggling a little bit the last few months.”
Jimenez did not drop a shot all day in perfect scoring conditions in Antalya and picked up seven birdies in his round.
“It feels very Mediterranean here, very similar to Malaga,” he said after taking only 23 putts. “Same kind of trees, same kind of soil.”
Jimenez is bidding for his third victory of the season. He was 49 when he won the Hong Kong Open in December and became the tour’s first 50-plus winner when he landed the Spanish Open crown in May.
Poulter, by contrast, has yet to enter the winner’s circle this term but believes his form is beginning to improve thanks to something old and something new.
”I’ve switched back to an old putter,“ he said. ”I started to hit some good shots, rolled the putts in that I would expect to hole and that adds up to eight-under-par.
“The new driver is also working exceptionally well. I was six-under on the par-fives today which is always a key to scoring well.”
Poulter, so often the talisman of the Ryder Cup team, only contributed one point to Europe’s triumphant effort at Gleneagles in September following a wretched run with niggling injuries.
However, the Englishman saw signs of progress when he finished tied for sixth at last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.
“Within the space of a couple of weeks I’ve started to feel really good about myself,” he said.
“I don’t have any aches or pains and that is really nice. I feel strong and that means I can practice and when I practice and start holing putts I‘m going to be full of confidence, like I am right now.”
Sergio Garcia’s outside chances of overtaking Rory McIlroy at the top of the money list were as good as extinguished after he ballooned to an opening 75.
The Spaniard needs to win the last two tournaments to have any hope of overhauling McIlroy.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson and German Marcel Siem, the only other players who can finish the season as Europe’s number one, carded rounds of 72 and 70 respectively.
Former Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts (80) suffered the indignity of taking a 10 after finding water three times at the par-five fourth.
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, the defending champion, also struggled as he returned a 77.
Editing by Ed Osmond