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Golf notebook: Jimenez returns from skiing injury

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Miguel Angel Jimenez, out all season because of a broken right shinbone sustained skiing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain over the Christmas holidays, made his return last week by playing in the Open de Espana for the 25th time.

Jimenez, who turned 49 in January, became the oldest winner in European Tour history when he captured the UBS Hong Kong Open last November. That came one week before he tied for 16th in the DP Dubai World Championship, his final event of 2012.

"My leg is improving daily," said Jimenez, a 19-time winner on the European Tour who fell 27 spots to 81st in the World Golf Rankings during his absence. "I work out every morning in the gym and I'm actually a little ahead of schedule on my rehab.

"I am not 100 percent fit, but I want to test myself and see how I feel. ... I'd hate to miss the chance of playing at El Saler."

The Spanish Open was the 599th event of his career on the Euro circuit and was played on Parador de El Saler Golf Course in Valencia, not far from his home in Malaga.

Jimenez, nicknamed "The Mechanic," shot 76-74 -- 150 and missed the cut by four strokes in his return.

--Inbee Park of South Korea moved to No. 1 in the Rolex Women's World Rankings one week after capturing the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the second major championship of her career and second title of 2013.

The 24-year-old moved past Stacy Lewis, whose No. 1 ranking lasted four weeks, becoming the second South Korean and eighth player overall to take the top spot since the rankings were instituted in February of 2006.

"This is a very big day in my golf career," Park said when the rankings were released at the beginning of last week before the start of the Lotte LPGA Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii.

"I'm so happy to share it with my family, who are here in Hawaii with me. It's nice to reach this goal, but I know a lot of players are close to No. 1. It gives me something else to play for every week."

Park, who won the LPGA Thailand in February, captured two events on the LPGA Tour last year and finished second six times, in addition to leading the money list with $2,287,080 and earning the Vare Trophy for the low scoring average of 70.212.

Lewis dropped to second, an average of 0.04 points per event behind Park in the rankings, which are determined on a formula covering the last two years, and Tseng Yani of Thailand remained No. 3.

Annika Sorenstam of Sweden was the first No. 1 player in the rankings and held the top spot for 61 weeks, followed by Lorena Ochoa of Mexico (158), Ai Miyazato of Japan (12), Cristie Kerr (5), Jiyai Shin of South Korea (25), Tseng (109), Lewis (4) and Park.

In her first tournament at No. 1, Park finished in a tie for fourth last week in the Lotte LPGA Championship.

--Guan Tianlang of China, who two weeks ago became the youngest player in Masters history and the youngest to make a cut on the PGA Tour, has accepted a sponsor's exemption into the Zurich Classic in New Orleans this week.

The 14-year-old Guan, who qualified for the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, earned low amateur honors at Augusta National by finishing 58th at 73-75-77-75 -- 300, 12-over-par, despite being assessed a controversial one-stroke penalty for slow play in round one.

"They didn't give me a lot of advice, but Mr. Ben Crenshaw said just play my own game and have fun," Guan said after the Masters. " ... It's a great week for me, and I learned a lot from the top players, and it's an honor to play with the top players here, and I learned a lot and had fun."

Guan had no three-putts on the treacherous greens at Augusta and nothing worse than a bogey on his scorecards.

A year ago, he spent a month in New Orleans and worked on his game at Lakewood Golf Course, not far from TPC Louisiana, site of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

"I'm really happy to come back (to New Orleans) this year," Guan said. "Every tournament I want to play well. I just want to have fun and hopefully post a good score."

Guan was planning to return home to Hawaii before receiving the sponsor's exemption to his first regular-season PGA Tour event.

--Despite a setback late last month, Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark has earned enough money on the PGA this season to earn special temporary membership on the circuit.

The 23-year-old Olesen had 60 days to accept, but wasted no time in signing on late last week.

Olesen's tie for sixth in the Masters, five strokes behind winner Adam Scott, was his second top-10 finish of the season on the PGA Tour and lifted his 2013 earnings to $632,300.

That's more than the $474,295 that Brendon Todd earned while finishing 150th on the 2012 money list, making Olsesen eligible for the special temporary membership, which would mean he can accept unlimited sponsor's exemptions on the PGA Tour for the rest of the year.

Olesen shot 68-68 on the weekend at the Masters to record his second top-10 finish in four career starts in the majors, following a tie for ninth last year in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

By finishing in the top 12 in the first major of the year, Olesen also earned a return trip to Augusta next year.

"It's a dream for me," said Olesen, who bounced back from a 6-over-par in the first round. "It's lovely to be here at a major and especially at the Masters. It's a great golf course and the atmosphere here is amazing.

"I definitely learned a lot about the greens. I missed a lot of putts the first round and it got better and better every day. So that was good. I felt like I hit the ball very good every day, actually."

After finishing seventh in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Olesen was forced to withdraw from the Shell Houston Open because of whiplash following a 10-over-par 82 in the first round after being involved in an auto accident the night before.

Olesen, who claimed his first European Tour victory at the Sicilian Open last year, climbed to No. 34 in the World Golf Rankings following his finish in the Masters.

The Dane is having a big season on both major tours, as he tied for second at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and tied for third at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the Middle East Swing of the Euro Tour.

Olesen is in the field the week for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain, who tied for 20th in the Masters, also has joined the PGA Tour on a special temporary membership.

Fernandez-Castano has played five times on the U.S. tour this season and earned $592,020, thanks to a tie for third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for ninth in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

To earn a PGA Tour card for next season, Fernandez-Castano and Olesen must earn more than the player who finishes the year 125th on the money list, as Nicolas Colsaerts of Belguim and David Lynn of England did in 2012.

--Jamie Donaldson of Wales missed the cut in his first Masters, but he took home more than simply a rewarding experience and a trophy from his initial trip to Augusta National.

Donaldson is hoping it will lead to a full-time gig on the PGA Tour.

The 37-year-old earned an engraved cut-glass bowl for making a hole-in-one with a 7-iron from 180 yards on the sixth hole in the first round, the 24th ace in tournament history and the first at No. 6 since Chris DiMarco's in 2004.

"It's funny as it's a tough shot, with the pin high up on the right side," said Donaldson, who has claimed two victories on the European Tour and six in his professional career. "So you don't know whether to take it on or sort of play just short left, so you've got a putt up the hill.

"It was pretty much trying to land the ball in a cup on a car roof. It was very special. Making an ace on a hole where you would accept par any day of the week is incredible and a memory I will treasure."

Donaldson, whose first victory after nearly 12 seasons on the Euro Tour came last year in the Irish Open, shot 74-75 -- 149, 5-over-par, and missed the weekend by a single shot despite carding birdies on the last two holes of his second round.

However, the couldn't overcome double bogeys on the ninth and 16th holes.

"For most of Friday I was making the cut, but Jason Day came in with that late birdie, which knocked out all the 5-overs," said Donaldson, who was keeping his eye on the scoreboard. "That's the way it goes sometimes, but you shouldn't be on the cut line hoping to get in. You simply need to play better golf.

" ... The Augusta experience overall was very special and the course was even better than seeing it on TV. The greens are more undulating than it looks on the television and the course itself is very hilly. The course itself is very much like Wentworth, only Americanized."

Donaldson was planning to try to earn his PGA Tour card at qualifying school late last year, but decided to concentrate on the Euro Tour because he was getting close to the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings, which would put him in the majors and other top tournaments.

The move paid off when he shot 4-under-par 68 in the final round to beat Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark by one stroke earlier this year to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

That put him inside the top 50, qualifying him for the majors and the four World Golf Championships, plus the Players Championship, and giving him an avenue toward earning his PGA Tour card.

"I have to play well in the tournaments I play this year to get enough money to earn a PGA Tour card for next year," said Donaldson, who is playing next month in the Players Championship, followed by the U.S. Open in June, and is looking for sponsor's exemptions into any other tournaments.

"I think I played three tournaments (on the PGA Tour) last year and I've already played more this year (five) in the States. That's where the highest standard of golf is, so that's where you have to go.

"The world ranking points are bigger and you're playing against the best players in the world. Everything about it is set up slightly differently than what I'm used to. To be a better golfer, I've got to play against the best all the time."

Donaldson was No. 35 in the World Golf Rankings last week, which should ensure that he will play in all four majors in one season for the first time this year.

The Welshman showed what he can do last year when he tied for seventh in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

--Dick Hart, who captured one of the longest playoffs in PGA Tour history, died recently at the age of 77 in Covington, La.

Hart, a native of Salem, Mass., who joined the PGA Tour in 1959, beat Phil Rodgers with a par on the eighth hole of a sudden-death playoff at Cape Fear Country Club to win the 1965 Azalea Open in Wilmington, N.C.

During his PGA Tour career, Hart made 78 cuts while serving full-time as head professional at Hinsdale Golf Club in Hinsdale, Ill., a position he held for 43 years. During that stretch, he qualified for the U.S. Open five times.

Hart played in the PGA Championship for 10 consecutive years and his 36-hole score of 66-72 -- 138 not only led the 1963 PGA at Dallas Athletic Club, it was the low two-round score of in tournament history until that point. Hart finished in a tie for 17th in Dallas, with Jack Nicklaus claiming the Wanamaker Trophy.

Inducted into the Illinois PGA Hall of Fame in 1990, Hart captured the Illinois Open and Illinois PGA Championship three times each and the Illinois Match Play Championship twice. He scored eight holes in one during his career.

"(Dick was) a real leader in the IPGA's history," said PGA pro Dan McGuire, vice president of business development at Blue Golf.

Hart was preceded in death by his wife, Joyce Hain Hart. He is survived by his daughter, Dalyce Burvant, and two sons, Rick and Ross, along with five grandchildren. His family held a private service.

The family asked that memorial contributions be made to the American Cancer Society or the American Heart Association.
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