sport

Jimenez on fire at Augusta

Europe's long wait for a Masters champion could come to an end on Sunday as Miguel Angel Jimenez spearheaded a number of contenders at Augusta.

Jimenez, who will make his Seniors Tour debut next week, only made the halfway cut with a shot to spare, but surged through the field with a 66 containing seven birdies and just one bogey.

That left the 50-year-old three under par and just one behind clubhouse leader Matt Kuchar, who returned a 68 despite three-putting the 18th, with 2012 champion Bubba Watson six under after 12 holes of his round.

Denmark's Thomas Bjorn was four under after 13 holes and playing partner Jonas Blixt of Sweden a shot behind, while Jimenez - whose compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal was the last European winner in 1999 - was joined in the clubhouse by English trio Lee Westwood (two under), Justin Rose (one under) and Ian Poulter (level par).

Jimenez is already the oldest winner in European Tour history, extending his own record by successfully defending his Hong Kong Open title in December, just weeks before turning 50 on January 5.

And the veteran Spaniard would become the oldest winner in major history if he could claim a green jacket on Sunday, eclipsing the record of Julius Boros, who was 48 years, four months and 18 days old when he won the 1968 US PGA Championship.

"That would mean a lot," said Jimenez, who held the halfway lead in the Open at Muirfield last year. "I have plenty of victories in my career and having a major in my career would be amazing. That would be the flower on top.

"If you are 50 it doesn't mean that you cannot play well. I'm still moving. I'm still flexible. I hit the ball longer than ever. I'm competitive you know. I don't want to commit to play the Champions Tour or any more senior events, apart from the Senior British Open, because I want to put myself in place too for the Ryder Cup. I would love to play the Ryder Cup.

"The main thing is that I'm doing what I like to do in my life and I'm enjoying it completely. It's my 26th year on Tour and probably some people say, 'that's so many years, that's got to be hard on the body'. No, I love what I'm doing and I hope I'm still in the same condition for another 25. I'm not going to get bored of myself!

"I feel great. I feel fantastic. I like the feeling of the knot in my stomach. I feel that thing since Monday when I got here, it doesn't disappear. I love that kind of pressure. That's why I'm still competing."

Birdies at the third and fifth took Jimenez to the turn in 34 and the former Ryder Cup player birdied the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th, with a bogey on the 12th his only blemish.

Westwood had failed to birdie any of the par fives in the first two rounds, but picked up shots at the second, eighth, 13th and 15th to boost his hopes of a first major title at the 64th attempt.

"Augusta is one of those places where I feel I can turn my game around," said Westwood, who took a two-shot lead into the final round of the Open at Muirfield last year but finished third.

"I know how to get round even if I'm not on my game. The course changes as the week goes on and Sunday afternoon is even more fun. Anyone within four or five of the lead will have a chance tomorrow."