Jimenez criticizes European Tour

CRANS-SUR-SIERRE, Switzerland -- Miguel Angel Jimenez has criticized the European Tour for extending an invitation to a 13-year-old to play in the European Masters, which begins Thursday.

Jimenez, who was 48 when he won last year's Hong Kong Open, was introduced on the Crans-sur-Sierre practice range Wednesday to Ye Wo-cheng, who was 12 in May when he contested the China Open and has since had a birthday.

Jimenez, the 2010 European Masters winner, was at odds with a sponsor's decision to give Ye an invitation to compete this week.

"It is nice to see that golf is interesting no matter what the age, but for me, a 13-year-old competing against professionals is a little a bit too young," he said. "People want to start things too early, and a 13-year-old should be playing alongside other 13-year-olds and not players averaging 33 years of age.

"No doubt the sponsor wants publicity for the tournament. But then it seems you have to go looking for under-age players to promote yourself. I'm sorry, this should not be allowed."

Ye will play the opening two rounds in the company of 35-year-old Martin Wiegele of Austria and 43-year-old Mathias Gronberg of Sweden, the champion in 1995.

Gronberg disagrees with Jimenez, noting the promotional worth of having the teenager in the field.

"It's going to be awesome playing with the young fellow and I will look forward to it," the Swede said. "It is where the game is at the present time and, as golfers, we are in the entertainment business and it's a sport there for the crowds.

"I am sure there will be hundreds of thousands of Chinese people that will tune into the golf on TV this week just to watch and follow Ye. So it would be absolutely silly not to market that opportunity.

"I am sure the [U.S.] Masters officials were pleased and happy when that 14-year old [Guan Tianlang], also from China, did so well to make the cut and then finish as the leading amateur. I had the same view when Michelle Wie played up here [on the men's tour at 14] because it is sponsors who pay our salary."

Jimenez believes it puts too much pressure on young players.

"They should not be pushing kids his age too hard, as it could have a disastrous effect on their careers," he said. "I hope he enjoys himself this week. But then I saw him hitting practice balls this morning, and he looked very nervous and he should not be in that position."