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Jimenez pushing for Ryder Cup place in Portugal

Miguel Angel Jimenez can top both European Ryder Cup tables with victory in the Portuguese Open beginning on Thursday at the Penina course.

The 40-year-old Spaniard, disqualified in his last European event, the Qatar Masters, three weeks ago, lies third on the world points list and fourth on the tour list.

A 208,330 points (250,000 dollars) first prize on Sunday would take him past the one million points mark to overtake Lee Westwood on the European list and edge him front of Padraig Harrington on the world list. The top five from each list qualify automatically.

Jimenez, however, is not yet thinking about a place in Bernhard Langer's team for the September clash with the United States at Oakland Hills, Michigan.

"It's too early to think of that," said Jimenez. "I have put pressure on myself in the past by thinking about the Ryder Cup too much, so I'll just let the things happen and wait and see."

Jimenez's victory in this year's Johnnie Walker Classic made the Malaga-based player favourite to follow his 1999 Ryder Cup debut with a second appearance but he missed a chance of a second 2004 title when he was disqualified at Doha.

There he mistakenly believed his ball had returned to its spot when it moved during a practice swing. Having played it from where it lay without taking a penalty, Jimenez was disqualified the next day for signing for a wrong score, when in a challenging position.

"I felt it came back to the same place but the official considered the ball did not rest at exactly the same spot and I was disqualified," he said.

Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson is not defending the title he won at Val do Lobo last year while the pre-tournament favourite Brian Davis, one of last year's runners-up, is also absent.

The Briton withdrew after squeezing into next week's U.S. Masters, where Jacobson also plays, in 50th and last place on the world rankings.

Jimenez, at 53rd on the world rankings and fourth on the European order of merit, is the highest ranked player at Penina and can also go top of the money-list if he wins.

Britain's Gary Orr was the last winner at Penina and the Scot is looking for happy returns after a slump in fortunes since his 2000 win, having had his tonsils removed during the winter.

Severiano Ballesteros, whose Amen Corner company are promoting the event, was another withdrawal and was reported stricken at home, in bed with a bad back. He has also withdrawn from next week's Masters.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club's 'pendulum test' which checks the legality of 'spring-effect' clubheads, is in operation for the first time this week at Penina.

While clubs that do not conform will be marked, the test is not prohibitive and will act only as a 'disincentive' to carry on using the illegal club.

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