Jimenez does it the hard way

Miguel Angel Jimenez became the oldest-ever winner of continental Europe's oldest golf title in Paris today – but he did it the hard way after making a real mess of the final hole.

The 46-year-old Spaniard captured the French Open at Le Golf National by beating compatriot Alejandro Canizares and Italian Francesco Molinari in a sudden death after he had gone in the water when two clear.

Jimenez had his second chance when Canizares went twice into the same lake at the first extra hole and Molinari, who shot into the bunker off the tee, was forced to lay up on the par four. Jimenez still had work to do when he missed the green, but a 15-footer gave him the crown after Molinari had holed from 18 feet for a bogey.

The first prize of just under £409,000 lifts the pony-tailed Malaga golfer all the way from 17th to fifth in the Ryder Cup race – which is the same position Molinari would have taken if he had won.

Ten of Jimenez's 17 European Tour victories have come since he turned 40 – a circuit record – and he now becomes the eighth oldest champion in Tour history. The compensation for Canizares was that he qualifies for The Open at St Andrews as the leading non-exempt player in the event.

Earlier Jimenez came bursting out of the pack with five successive birdies in six holes from the 11th to be two clear.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy would have been in the play-off as well if he had converted a 12-foot chance at the 18th, but it stayed above the hole and he had to be content with fourth.

After signing for a 66 the 21-year-old, four behind at the start, said: "I gave it a good go. I hit the last putt exactly where I wanted, but it didn't come down.

"I can take a lot from this. I'm hitting it great and I can't wait for The Open," McIlroy added.