Jimenez to star on day one

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: April 10 2014, 15:48 BST

Ben Coley is backing Miguel Angel Jimenez to get off to a flying start in the Masters by taking the first-round lead.

Miguel Angel Jimenez is fancied to shine on Thursday
Miguel Angel Jimenez is fancied to shine on Thursday

Miguel Angel Jimenez winning the Masters is almost too beautiful a thing to believe. Surely, this world is too cruel to allow such a magnificent occurrence, and it may be that images of the long-locked Spaniard chomping on a cigar while wearing a Green Jacket may be forced to exist only in our imaginations.

But what he is capable of is stealing the day one headlines and at three-figure prices, the 50-year-old looks outstanding value in the first-round leader market.

Quite simply, Jimenez is a proven performer on the first day of the very biggest events across the globe.

Most notable are his Thursday exploits in the Open Championship, in particular that sparkling 64 at Turnberry which had us all dreaming before an even older man stole the show. As well as leading there, Jimenez was fourth last year, third in 2011, second in 2006, fifth in 2001 and eighth in 2007 and few players come close to matching him over the first 18 holes.

But The Mechanic hasn't just demonstrated his lightning starts in Europe. In the 2006 US Open he sat one off the lead while it was only Tiger Woods who bettered his first-round score when he was at his dominant best at the turn of the century.

The last three PGA Championships have each seen Jimenez break 70 on day one, albeit a shot or two shy of the places on each occasion, while just last month he opened with a round of 70 to sit eighth, one shot out of a place, after the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Here at the Masters, he was fourth after round one last year and has broken par on day one in five of his 13 appearances, including when opening with a round of 68 to lie seventh - again just a shot off a place - in 2001.

It's a really, really solid record and one which suggests he's more than capable of emulating compatriot Alvaro Quiros, who shared the lead with Rory McIlroy three years ago.

Another player I like is Trevor Immelman, who matched Jimenez with a round of 68 a year ago to further underline his love for this event, which he won having led after day one in 2008.

Of course, that things have happened in the past do not mean they'll continue to occur, but Immelman's record here is so strong that he has to be considered too big a price at 125/1. As well as the two efforts mentioned, he opened with 69s in 2010 and 2011 and has broken par on four of his five visits as a returning former champion.

It's also encouraging that while his overall form figures are poor, seven of his nine opening rounds this season have been 71 or better, including a 69 in Houston last week. In his previous two starts he sat just outside the top 10 after day one and he certainly looks to be in better form than was the case this time last year.

Like Jimenez, Immelman has also shone at other big tournaments including a first-round lead in the PGA Championship and a place in the Open, but it's Augusta where he truly comes alive and I can see him rekindling the magic once more.

Finally, Francesco Molinari appears to have been underestimated in the market despite having placed after day one in each of his last three strokeplay starts, all of which have been in the US.

The Italian sat fourth after round one of the 2012 Masters and shot two-under in his very first round at Augusta, so there's evidence to suggest he can find another fast start.

Molinari was ninth after round one of the Open last year and has sat inside the places after the first round of a PGA Championship, too, while his victory in the WGC-HSBC Champions was wire-to-wire.

  • Posted at 1315 BST on 08/04/2014.