Golf: Parnevik's precious victory

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The Independent Online
WHAT the Bell's Scottish Open has to offer, apart from pounds 600,000, is five gold invitations of inestimable value, writes Tim Glover. The recipients avoid having to go through a form of torment known as the Open qualifying, which explains why Roger Chapman and Robert Lee were almost inconsolable at Gleneagles.

The first four exempt places for the Open Championship, which starts at Royal St George's on Thursday, went to Jesper Parnevik, Gary Orr, Paul Way and Christy O'Connor Jnr. For the fifth spot, Chapman, Lee and Gary Evans, who were all at two over par for the championship, had a sudden death play-off, which Evans won at the first extra hole.

Parnevik, the 28-year-old Swede who had never won on the European Tour, could not have chosen a better time to play the best golf of his career. He spreadeagled the field with scores of 64 and 66 in the first two rounds and, despite a couple of sleepless nights, held on comfortably to win by five strokes from Payne Stewart.

Once Parnevik birdied the first two holes in the final round, everybody else was playing for place money. 'I think you're likely to see a lot more of him,' Stewart said of Parnevik. When the Swede holed out on the 18th, Stewart joined in the applause of a crowd of nearly 30,000. 'We chatted all the way round,' Parnevik said, 'and he kept me relaxed.'

Stewart - Bell's say they did not pay appearance money, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the American and his entourage did not have to pay for their flight tickets - finished second for the fourth time this season. 'My time is coming,' the American said. 'My confidence is high and this is going to be a very special year for me.'

On 10 occasions Parnevik had tried, and failed, to qualify for the Open. Orr, 27, from Helensburgh near Loch Lomond, also makes his debut in the Open after three attempts at qualifying. On Saturday he closed with a 64.

Orr, in his rookie year as a Tour professional, won pounds 33,780 at Gleneagles, more than four times his previous highest purse. 'I'm not going to buy any fancy cars or anything like that,' he said. 'I'll manage to squander it other ways.' Orr is a graduate of the Tartan Tour. 'Nobody,' he said, 'can understand the pressure you're under out there. It costs about pounds 1,000 a week to play the European Tour and it's a big gamble.'

Seve Ballesteros, who finished at 10 over par, cut a despondent figure. 'It's going to take longer than I thought to regain my game,' he said. 'Nobody should feel sorry for me. I didn't ask 'why me' when I was winning so I'm not asking now. I don't think it'll ever be as good as it was. Even my desire is not the same and I don't feel so good physically.'

Colin Montgomerie gave one of his now traditional cameo performances. 'Why don't you talk about Parnevik. The poor lad leads all the way and all you want to write about is me not smiling. All I get is this crap about 'Col-amity'. ' Col-amity was one of the tartan tabloids' better headlines.

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