Jimenez cards career-low 61 on 'beautiful day in the mountains'

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The Independent Online

Miguel Angel Jimenez, produced the lowest round of his 27-year European Tour career in Switzerland yesterday.

Two eagles and six birdies gave the veteran Ryder Cup player a 10-under-par 61 in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre and he goes into the weekend with an impressive three-stroke lead.

Jimenez, 46, making his 22nd successive visit to the Alpine resort, had a chance of the Tour's first-ever 59 when he reached the 16th tee needing two more birdies. But the Spaniard, who has had 10 of his 17 victories on the circuit since turning 40, had to be content with parring all three remaining holes for a 14 under halfway total of 128.

More good news for Colin Montgomerie, the Ryder Cup captain, was that Italian Edoardo Molinari, the only other member of his side playing in the event, lies joint second with 17-year-old compatriot Matteo Manassero. Molinari, handed a wild card after his win in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last weekend, added a 65 to his opening round 66.

First-round leader Manassero, attempting to become the Tour's youngest-ever winner in only his sixth event as a professional, chipped in for eagle at the long 15th in his 67. However, the day belonged to a player who made his Tour debut 10 years before the versatile Manassero was even born.

"It was a beautiful day in the mountains," said Jimenez, playing his 535th Tour event. "I was thinking 59 a little bit and I tried, but it was still a great round. All the clubs were working properly and that's what you need."

Playing for the fifth week in a row – he added last week's event to his schedule for fear of losing out in the Ryder Cup race and finished third – Jimenez followed three early birdies with an eagle at the 629-yard ninth. He was on in two with a three-wood there, while at the 595-yard 14th he hit a five-wood to within three feet of the flag for his second eagle.

Molinari, also a two-time winner this season, had set the target during the morning with his second bogey-free round. "I hit the ball great and it was a very controlled round," said the 29-year-old, who will take three weeks off after this to prepare for his Ryder Cup debut, alongside his brother Francesco, at Celtic Manor next month.

Manassero, last year's British amateur champion, turned professional only in May at the Italian Open and will probably need a top-five finish to avoid the qualifying school at the end of the season. This is the sixth of seven invitations he is allowed. The other comes at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland next month.

His opening 64 made him the youngest ever player to lead a Tour event outright after the completion of a round and he resumed with three more birdies in the first four holes. However, he was unable to keep pace with Jimenez after that.