Jimenez goes on a spree

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The Independent Online
Miguel Angel Jimenez piled up a remarkable 14 birdies in 24 holes yesterday as the Portuguese Open tried to catch-up after the first day's play was disrupted by bad weather at Penha Longa, near Estoril.

The Spaniard's onslaught on the course provided him with a timely boost to his confidence as he prepares for his debut in the US Masters in three weeks' time. He finished his delayed first round with five birdies in six holes, then teed off again only 10 minutes later and had nine more in a second round of 66.

Jimenez, invited to Augusta after ending last season fifth on the European money list, stands 10 under par on 134 at the half-way stage, three ahead of the Italian Ryder Cup player, Costantino Rocca.

Lucky to miss the worst of the weather on the opening day when fierce winds held up play for four hours, Jimenez would have been even further ahead but for bogeys at the first, 16th and 18th.

Rocca closed the gap to three shots in spectacular fashion when, on the long 12th, he hit a three-wood 239 yards to two feet for an eagle three. But Ireland's Paul McGinley made a counter-claim for "shot of the day", which, appropriately enough was St Patrick's Day, sinking a 135-yard eight- iron at the 13th for an eagle of his own. The former Walker Cup player also had six birdies in a 65 which swept him to five under.

Paul Curry and Mark Davis share third place on six under with Adam Hunter, who also recorded a 65. Alongside McGinley, one shot further back, are Tony Johnstone, of Zimbabwe, and David Gilford, the runner-up to Mark James in Morocco last Sunday and another who will be making his first Augusta appearance next month.