KAILUA-KONA — Walking off the 18th green toward the makau hook trophy waiting for him, Miguel Angel Jimenez had his own celebration in mind.
The 56-year-old Spaniard pulled out a cigar and lit it, taking a big puff before stretching his arms out for the cheering crowd who had just witnessed Jimenez win his second Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in dramatic fashion.
Jimenez finished regulation of the final round Saturday 5-under 67 and in a three-way tie with Ernie Els and Fred Couples, all at 14-under overall. Jimenez birdied the second hole of the playoff to win the PGA Tour Champions’ opening tournament for the first time since 2015.
The pressure of playing in a playoff wasn’t lost on Jimenez, but his familiarity with the Hualalai Golf Course and his fellow 14-under players kept him calm.
“You feel tense, but no nerves,” Jimenez said after winning the playoff. “It’s lucky we were playing well the last few holes and make a few birdies to jump into 14-under par.”
Jimenez was 11-under after the front nine, but three consecutive birdies on the 13th, 14th, and 15th holes caught him back up to the day’s leaders.
“When I saw the scoreboard, I said to my caddie, the winning score is going to be 15-under par, and we need to hurry up and make a birdie,” Jimenez said. “Made three birdies in a row, and 14-under par, and then here we are.”
Couples was eliminated on the first hole of the playoff. This marks the third time Couples has finished in second at the tournament. He was runner-up to Tom Watson in 2010 and runner-up to Bernhard Langer in 2017.
PGA Tour Champions rookie Els said the playoff loss at his first tournament on the tour was “disappointing.”
“I would have loved to get it through,” Els said. “But, I had a couple of chances, didn’t quite get the right speed or the right line, but all good. Congrats to Miguel.”
Els had a bogey-free day and eagled the par-5 fourth hole, but missed his putt on the 18th hole by inches to finish the second playoff hole at even-par.
“But it’s been a good week and excellent as always in Hawaii,” Els said. “Playing with the guys that I played with as I grew up through the Tour, a lot of these guys were kind of my mentors through my time, so it’s nice to come back and play with them again.”
Regulation almost ended in a four-man tie, with Langer also at 14-under before teeing off on the par-three 17th hole.
It was one of the many pockets of lava that dot Hualalai’s course that finished Langer’s chances of competing in the playoff. Langer’s ball nestled itself in the ragged rocks after the wind picked up his tee shot, and Langer scored a double bogey on the 17th.
Langer finished the final round of the tournament 1-under 71.
Woody Austin, the leader after the second round Friday, finished the tournament tied for ninth place at 10-under.
The victory at Hualalai marks Jimenez’s ninth career PGA Tour Champions win, and places him at the top of the Schwab Cup rankings at the start of the tour’s season.
“My first time I came here and I won, and now five years after coming back here, I win,” Jimenez said. “I play well every year here and it’s nice to have a second time.”