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Jimenez has birdie blitz ... with a wedge

By Karl MacGinty

In golf he's known as ‘The Mechanic' but Miguel Angel Jimenez conjured up such a magical series of putts with his lob wedge yesterday, maybe in future we should call him ‘The Wizard'.

The charismatic Spaniard played the final five holes of his second round at the Volvo Golf Champions without a putter ... yet still managed to complete a hat trick of birdies in those closing holes as a superlative 65 gave him a share of the lead on 11-under par.

Darren Clarke, who soared to within one stroke of Jimenez with a sweet 65 of his own, and course designer Colin Montgomerie creased up with laughter when Jimenez, furious after missing the latest in a series of makeable putts, smashed the shaft of the offending club in two by the 13th green.

“It was a wonderful effort,” quipped Clarke afterwards as he launched into a graphic description of his 47-year-old playing-companion's full-blooded throwing action.

“Miguel's back swing was a little bit long but the release was at the perfect time and the putter just managed to catch the corner of the bag. I have to say, it was beautiful, really funny. He got full marks for technique from the course designer and myself.

“Between the three of us playing together today, we've spent a few years out here and, unfortunately, we've all done it,” the Ulsterman chuckled. “If you're playing nicely like Miguel and miss putt after putt, you're going to lose your temper.”

Few have endured as much frustration as Clarke on the putting green but he confessed: “Though I've bent a few putters in my time, I don't think I've ever managed to break one.”

If the act of breaking the golf club was amusing, the large gallery following Jimenez, Clarke and Montgomerie would be enthralled as the Spaniard needed just one putt to hole out with his trusty lob wedge on the next four greens .

Jimenez had taken 23 putts on the first 13 holes with his putter but, incredibly, couldn't miss with the wedge, literally blading his ball into the hole for birdie from 17 feet at 15, followed by a ticklish, downhill six-footer at the daunting par three 16th and from tap-in distance at 17 after he'd hit a wonderful 110 yards sand iron to inches.

Tied for the lead with Sweden's Peter Hanson, Raphael Jacquelin of France and Italy's Edoardo Molinari going into the weekend, Jimenez might easily add to his haul of 18 European Tour victories in Bahrain tomorrow.

Remarkably, 11 of those wins, incuding three in 2010, have been achieved by Jimenez since he turned 40.

So if ever there was an inspiration for Clarke, now 42, as he tries to regain the upper echelons of the world game, it's this remarkable man from Malaga.

“I feel quite athletic beside him,” the Ulsterman joked.

Jimenez insisted hitting puts with his wedge was no big deal. “I've used it quite a bit in the past but I think I'll be taking a putter with me tomorrow.”

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