Parnevik finds way out of wilderness

Popular Swede fights back against the game's demons which forced him to walk away last year
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The Independent Online

Jesper Parnevik, after a stunning run of 27 under par for his last 75 holes, suddenly looks as if he could become a real force in world golf again.

After finishing joint runner-up in last week's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic the 40-year-old Swede, who gave up golf for a spell last year because it was giving him such a hard time, was tied for second place going into the third round of the Buick Invitational.

Successive rounds of 67 on the South and North courses at Torrey Pines in California put Parnevik on 10 under par with the South African Tim Clark, two behind the leader, American Brandt Jobe, who has yet to win in a US Tour career that stretches all the way back to 1987.

They have not shaken off the big names, however. The defending champion, Tiger Woods, hit back from what he called an "ugly" opening 73 with a 68 on the far tougher South course to be seven shots back, while Phil Mickelson, the other three-time winner in the field, is one better and tied for 12th following a 67. Sergio Garcia had two birdies in the last three holes to match his playing partner Woods' 68 and improved from 33rd spot to fifth. He has only five strokes to make up.

Luke Donald, the runner-up the past two seasons, shot 67, but having opened with a 75 he still made the cut with only a single stroke to spare at two under. Brian Davis is three under, but Greg Owen was forced to bow out on one over.

Parnevik's form has presumably been noted by the Ryder Cup captain, Ian Woosnam, but if he feels the need Woosnam will have to persuade him to rejoin the European Tour to become eligible for September's match. Parnevik does not qualify as things stand, and does not appear on the points tables.

Parnevik had only two top-10 finishes all last season and slumped from 40th to 109th on the American money list. But his game has suddenly clicked back into gear, and he said: "Everybody wants to start the year on a good note because it's usually carried through the rest of the year. I don't know too many examples of guys that started out really bad and then had a great year."

Amazingly, it was just one drive on the practice range last week that got him into the groove again - that and being inspired by the Johnny Cash film Walk The Line.

"That's how weird this game is," he said. "You can go from pretty much having no clue and searching really hard where the ball is going to go to feeling like I have got it now."

He spent two months away from the game last summer. "I said the heck with it, I'm going to surrender. I gave in. The game got me."

Woods hit only one fairway in his opening round - his first competitive round since 11 December - but put in the hours afterwards and received the reward for his hard work. "I actually knew what I was doing yesterday and couldn't stop it. Today felt a lot better," he said after switching drivers and giving a display which included a 60-foot eagle putt on the 13th.

Round of the day was an eight-under 64 from Jose Maria Olazabal, whose last US Tour win was in this event four years ago, and it lifted him from 105th to 12th.

France's Thomas Levet, who was the joint first-round leader with Jobe, is alongside Olazabal and Mickelson on six under following a round of 73.