AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jordan Spieth didn’t become the youngest Masters champion on Sunday, and Miguel Angel Jimenez didn’t become the oldest. But the 50-year-old Spaniard was still impressive, shooting a 33 on his final nine holes to gain a fourth-place finish.
It’s the best showing in Jimenez’s Masters career, spanning 15 starts. It’s also the best Masters finish by a player 50 or older since Sam Snead tied for third at the age of 50 in 1963.
“It feels nice. I was playing very well, playing very solid all the week,” said Jimenez, who closed with a 71 to finish at 4 under par, four shots behind winner Bubba Watson.
Six players at least 50 made the cut this year, a tournament record. Jimenez can see the day where a senior — he’ll make his Champions Tour debut this week — slips on the winner’s green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club.
“Why not? Fred Couples played nice, [Bernhard] Langer played nice, I played nice, too,” Jimenez said. “To win a tournament you need to hit the ball well, putt good, and go play.”
Jimenez was never in serious contention to win after making bogeys Sunday on three of his first five holes, but he made birdies on Nos. 10, 12, 14, and 16 to hang around and keep climbing. Also, his goal is to make this year’s European Ryder Cup team.
Couples faltered on Sunday, shooting a 75 that dropped him 10 spots, from a tie for 10th to a tie for 20th, ending a run of four straight Masters in which he finished 15th or better. He had it to 3 under at the turn, but made double bogeys at Nos. 11 and 15, ending any outside hope he had.
The biggest Sunday move by a senior belonged to Langer. The two-time Masters winner opened 3-3, that birdie-eagle start setting the tone for what would be a 69, Langer’s first sub-70 score in the Masters since a third-round 69 in 2004.
After missing six straight cuts at Augusta (a run that ended with a tie for 25th last year), Langer’s tie for eighth was his best finish here since he tied for fourth in 2004.
“My game has been good, even when I missed a cut. I’ve had some very good rounds here, I just had one round where I messed up, and it’s easily done here,” Langer said. “I’ve been playing some very good golf the last eight or 10 years. It’s just putting four good rounds together.”
Rory McIlroy, one of the pretournament favorites, finally got back on the leaderboard when a birdie at No. 11 brought him to even par. With a pair of par 5s left to play, McIlroy could have applied some mild pressure to the leaders if he could make an eagle or two. Instead, he bogeyed both. Game over.
“I played the par 5s in even par this week, which you just can’t do out here. I’m even par for the tournament and even par for the par 5s,” said McIlroy, who still had his low score of the week, a 69 that left him tied for eighth. “You’re looking to play the par 5s somewhere around 10 to 12 under par. If I had done that, it would have been a different story.”
He’ll be back
Playing in his first Masters, Joost Luiten had the lowest score of the final round, a 67 that included birdies on three of his final four holes.
Luiten tied for 26th; the top 12 and ties automatically qualify for next year’s Masters. That group does not include Stewart Cink, who tied for 14th. His five-year exemption for winning the 2009 British Open ended this year.
Not this year
His last putt found the hole and he raised both arms, same as last year. But this time, Adam Scott was celebrating a lengthy par putt at the 18th hole, instead of a playoff birdie on No. 10 that won him the 2013 Masters. The defending champion tied for 14th at 1 over . . . Oliver Goss closed with a 75 to finish at 10 over. He is the first Australian to win the silver cup, which goes to the low amateur. On Monday, it’s back to the University of Tennessee, where he’s a sophomore . . . In his 100th Masters round, 56-year-old Sandy Lyle eagled No. 13 during his round of 73. It was one of five eagles on the day: two came at No. 2, and three at the 13th . . . Craig Stadler, who wasn’t on the first tee Thursday when his son, Kevin, started his first Masters, was behind the 18th green when he finished. Kevin Stadler bogeyed the last two holes but shot 73 and tied for eighth, which means he’ll be back at next year’s Masters. Craig Stadler hinted strongly that this year’s missed cut was his last Masters . . . Sunday’s stroke average of 72.8 was the lowest of the tournament by a full shot.