Golf: Parnevik fulfils his dream

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The Independent Online
IT WAS tense and emotional, and the final result was always in doubt here yesterday. This drama, however, centred on the struggle to pick up one of the five qualifying places available via the Scottish Open for The Open championship itself next week.

On the final day of another record-breaking week, it was the sub-plot that almost took centre- stage. The man responsible for all this was the amiable young Swede Jesper Parnevik.

Back home in Stockholm, his father, perhaps Sweden's best- loved comic and impersonator, was doing a vivid impression of a fruit and nut case as he tried to keep telephonic track of Parnevik's progress over the King's course. Parnevik Snr need not have worried.

When he stood on the first tee alongside the rather better known American Payne Stewart, Parnevik was 10 under par, seven shots ahead of anyone and surely destined to win his first PGA European Tour title.

The only question was whether his nerve would stand up. Twenty minutes later this query was as irrelevant as the rest of the field.

While Stewart - 'I'll find out how good Jesper is in this last round but so far he has been outstanding' - watched, Parnevik birdied the first two holes.

From seven ahead to nine ahead in six strokes. Stirring stuff indeed. Unless, naturally, you were Stewart and were hoping to impose both your game and your personality on a younger, less experienced rival.

Such a run could not last. And it did not. By the time he got to the 18th green, where many of the record last-day crowd of 29,866 had assembled, our hero was actually one over par. Perhaps unsettled by the moment and his reception from a typically vociferous Scottish gallery, Parnevik very untypically for this week missed his five-foot birdie putt, the ball rolling out from the lip.

He grinned hugely, however, and no wonder. His last round of 71 was the tiniest blip after the best four days of his golfing life. He had opened his challenge with a 64, then a 66, consolidated it with a par 70 and did all he had to do yesterday to win pounds 100,000, secure his place at Royal St George's and also qualify for the Johnnie Walker World Championships in Jamaica.

Of these three substantial rewards, the second gave him the most obvious pleasure. 'I've tried 10 times to play in the Open and failed. One day I knew I would make it, but never like this. This is a dream,' he said.

'It was so weird walking down the last hole knowing I had won, so weird. My start was a dream also, but over the back nine I had trouble staying focused. Payne was a great help, but my mind kept wandering away.'

Stewart, who, as expected, gave it his best shot, ended with a 69 - a double-bogey five at the eighth shredded what slim chance he had - and a sporting compliment to the victor. 'Jesper is a real champ. I'm very impressed. I just hope he goes on from here.'

Quickly going on from Gleneagles were all those professionals who must play this morning in the Open qualifying rounds in Kent. The five who have avoided that chore via their efforts in Scotland are: Parnevik; Scotland's Graham Orr; England's Paul Way; Ireland's Christy O'Connor Jnr; and eventually, Gary Evans of England.

Evans won his direct entry after a play-off win against Robert Lee and Roger Chapman. Lee hooked his drive and second shot at the first play-off hole before Chapman missed a birdie putt from 20 feet. Evans did not.

Chapman walked away in tears. Elsewhere, Parnevik, too, was in tears for wildly different reasons.

BELL'S SCOTTISH OPEN (Gleneagles): Leading final scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 271 J Parnevik (Swe) 64 66 70 71. 276 P Stewart (US) 71 69 67 69. 278 G Orr 70 72 72 64; J Rivero (Sp) 77 66 68 67. 279 P Way 69 74 70 66; S Torrance 73 65 71 70. 281 C O'Connor Jnr 71 70 70 70. 282 R Chapman 69 71 73 69; M Roe 73 72 68 69; R Lee 67 71 73 71; G Evans 69 68 73 72; S Lyle 73 67 69 73. 283 P Senior (Aus) 71 76 71 65; S Richardson 73 71 70 69; S Luna (Sp) 71 70 72 70. 284 A Webster 73 69 74 68; S Struver (Ger) 72 75 69 68; R Boxall 73 68 72 71; S Bowman (US) 73 69 71 71; P Baker 69 74 68 73. 285 H Selby-Green 78 68 71 68; P Fowler (Aus) 71 73 72 69; P Broadhurst 76 70 69 70. 286 I Woosnam 73 69 75 69; D Hammond (US) 73 71 71 71; B Barnes 70 76 68 72; E O'Connell 77 65 71 73; D Clarke 69 73 70 74; B Marchbank 73 67 70 76. 287 F Lindgren (Swe) 77 70 71 69; M Jiminez (Sp) 71 72 74 70; H Clark 76 71 70 70; E Romero (Arg) 72 70 74 71; R Davis (Aus) 73 73 70 71; G J Brand 73 73 70 71; C Cassells 73 74 69 71; D Waldorf (US) 72 75 68 72; B Lane 75 69 70 73. 288 M Martin (Sp) 73 73 72 70; A Oldcorn 74 71 72 71; J van de Velde (Fr) 72 71 73 72; M Lanner (Swe) 72 73 71 72; H Baiocchi (SA) 70 76 70 72; J Haeggman (Swe) 73 73 68 74; C Mason 72 67 74 75. Selected: 290 S Ballesteros (Sp) 74 73 73 70; C Montgomerie 70 71 76 73.

Ronan Rafferty, Europe's leading money-winner just four years ago, will not attempt to qualify for the Open. The Ulsterman was due to be among 480 hopefuls battling for 52 places at four courses around Sandwich today and tomorrow, but he has pulled out.

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