You want to understand Jesper Parnevik? It's easier to figure
out the upside of debentures or why a yellow sun makes Superman
strong. Parnevik, Sweden's famously eccentric golfer, is not
likely to be explained anytime soon. He is known to have
cleansed his body by eating volcanic dust and bowls of vitamins.
He almost won the British Open in 1994 but forgot to look at the
leader board on the final hole and made a strategic gaffe that
cost him the tournament. I mean, just look at him. The
stovepipe-legged slacks, the hat with the turned-up bill, the
tee tucked behind the right ear. Surely, this man is either a
housepainter or the son of the most famous comedian in Sweden.
Actually, the latter is correct.
On Sunday at Forest Oaks Country Club, before knocking in his
final putt in the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic, Parnevik
took a moment to slip a big ol' stogie between his teeth and
have his caddie light it, right there on the green. Then he
tapped in the anticlimactic gimme that made him the champion of
a tournament he hadn't even planned to enter.
So ended another routine week, one that began with Parnevik
using a new putter, a set of irons he had first laid eyes on the
night before the opening round and a caddie who hadn't put strap
to shoulder in almost 30 years. If that wasn't enough to make
him a sure thing, there was also this: Parnevik hadn't cracked
the top 10 all year; the week before, at the MCI Classic, he had
been disqualified after being ratted out by his caddie; and his
wife was "ready to pop," as he delicately informed a national
television audience when asked about the ETA of the couple's
This is the kind of chaos in which Parnevik thrives. In fact, he
was doing so well last week that at one point it looked as if he
would smash every PGA Tour scoring record. After opening with
rounds of 65 and 63, he was 23 under par through 51 holes and
laughing as his birdie putts kept diving out of sight. The only
predictable thing about Parnevik is that it's impossible to
predict what will happen next, so no one was terribly surprised
when he bogeyed two of the final three holes last Saturday, then
limped around the final 18 like Hansel and Gretel lost in the
forest. Despite hitting only 10 of 28 fairways on the weekend, a
hot putter helped him hang on to finish at 23 under, two strokes
ahead of Jim Furyk. "Jesper's a streaky player, either hot or
cold," says Per-Ulrik Johansson, a friend of Parnevik's who,
after receiving an invitation to play in Greensboro, persuaded
Jesper to join him. "When he's hot, he's really good."
Parnevik's semirunaway at Greensboro was not uncharted
territory. In 1993 he led the Scottish Open by seven shots after
three rounds, birdied the first two holes on the final day and
won by five strokes. He also won the '95 Scandinavian Masters
and the '96 Trophee Lancome by five, both times topping Colin
Montgomerie. Last year Parnevik twice won by three shots, one of
those victories coming at the Phoenix Open, in which he birdied
three of the final five holes. "You can't believe how much fun
it is to play golf when you feel like you can birdie every
hole," Parnevik said after Saturday's 67. "It doesn't matter
what the hole looks like, and it doesn't matter if you're in the
rough. You feel you can make birdie. You don't get that feeling
too often. I couldn't believe the putts. You try to two-putt,
and boom, they go in."
What caused this remarkable sensation? Parnevik was asked.
"That's the whole thing about golf," he said, shaking his head.
"You can't figure it out."
Parnevik was asked the same question on Sunday after he had won,
and he tried to give credit to a double dose of the vitamins he
promotes. Nice try, but no sale. Two more likely reasons for his
success were the new irons and his caddie-for-a-week, former
Tour player Lance Ten Broeck.
Let's start with the irons. Grouped with Greg Norman for the
first two rounds of the Masters, Parnevik noticed that he was
two clubs longer than the Shark. When they were the same
distance from the green, Norman would hit a six-iron and
Parnevik would hit an eight. That wasn't right. Parnevik tried
irons with different shafts the following week, at Hilton Head,
but didn't like them. On Wednesday, April 21, at Greensboro he
took some new iron heads, put in shafts, ground the heads and
had the loft on the clubs weakened. The work wasn't done until
6:30 p.m. The next day the hard-swinging Swede was hitting
higher, shorter shots and had--aha!--better distance control.
"With his old set he could hit a wedge 155 yards if he wanted
to," Ten Broeck says. Parnevik also noticed that the grooves on
his sand wedge were badly worn, which explained why some of his
chip shots didn't check up. Changing clubs at the 11th hour is
risky, but it made a difference.
The hiring of Ten Broeck, who has played the Tour on and off
since 1980 and is currently banging around the Florida
mini-tours, may have been inspired. Was it coincidence that
Parnevik, who had ranked 66th in the Tour's putting statistics
before Greensboro, had the putting week of his life? "I think if
any Tour player was on your bag, he'd be the best caddie out
here," says Steve Elkington, who finished 44th. "Lance Ten
Broeck played the Tour for 15 years. That's a pretty good second
read on every putt. And I'm sure Jesper was a little ticked off
and embarrassed about last week."
Elkington was referring to the way Parnevik had parted company
with his previous caddie, Loren Duncan. Duncan confirmed for a
Tour official that, yes, Parnevik had used his glove to brush
the line of his putt on the 17th green during the second round
of the MCI. That violation of the rules led to Parnevik's
disqualification, and it was widely reported that he had fired
Duncan on the spot. Last week Parnevik insisted that the timing
of the sacking was purely coincidental, that they had already
planned to split and he hadn't fired Duncan for telling the truth.
Ten Broeck, who spends his winters on Singer Island, off the
coast of south Florida, and occasionally plays rounds with
Parnevik, who lives in nearby Jupiter, heard about the split and
asked for the job. "Jesper said, 'Are you sure you want to do
this?'" said Ten Broeck. "I said, 'I'd love to. I'll do a good
job for you.'" Ten Broeck looked over all of Parnevik's putts
but offered his opinion only when asked. "It's kind of like a
first date," Ten Broeck said. "You don't want to get too fresh."
The results say it best. Parnevik ranked second in putting
(behind Furyk) and needed only 99 putts for the week (Furyk had
96, three off the Tour record). By way of comparison Tom Lehman
finished fifth, 10 shots back, and took 113 putts. "If I can
putt this way at Pinehurst, I'll probably win," Parnevik joked
when asked about the June 17-20 U.S. Open, which will take place
75 miles south of Greensboro.
The caddying job was Ten Broeck's first since 1970, when he
looped for George Archer in the Western Open. "George played
with Tommy Bolt and Jack Nicklaus the first two days," Ten
Broeck said. "I was 14 and learned some new words from Bolt."
His fee that week was $90. "You had to shag balls then, too, and
George Archer practiced more than anybody. I was out there until
dark every night."
Oddly, the three top finishers at Greensboro all used fill-in
caddies. Furyk had Jeff Manson, a former teammate at Arizona, on
his bag as a one-week replacement for Mike (Fluff) Cowan, who
had planned a golf vacation in Scotland for the week of
Greensboro, a tournament that his former employer, Tiger Woods,
was certain to skip. Jeff Maggert, who finished third, eight
shots back, gave his regular caddie the week off so his
girlfriend, Michelle Austin, who lives in Greensboro, could give
caddying a try. "We talked about it three or four months ago,"
said Maggert. "She wanted to know if she could caddie sometime.
I said, 'How about in your hometown?' I was teasing her because
she was reading through the caddie regulations and it said to be
sure to negotiate your salary early in the week. She said, 'Oh,
you don't have to pay me for doing it.' I was like, 'O.K., you
said it, not me.'" Maggert won $176,800.
Ten Broeck was celebrating with Johannson when Parnevik accepted
the winner's trophy from Sam Snead, who has won this event a
Tour-record eight times. "You have to figure out what you're
going to do with 50 grand," Johannson told Ten Broeck. "Man, you
made three times more than I did this week."
"Aw, poor baby," Ten Broeck replied. "I need it three times more
than you do."
Johansson then asked Ten Broeck if he wanted to caddie for
Parnevik for the rest of the year. "Yeah," Ten Broeck said,
smiling. "Absolutely." Johansson agreed that they made a good
It was a memorable Sunday for Team Sweden. Jarmo Sandelin, born
in Finland but a Swedish citizen, won the Spanish Open on the
European tour. Magnus Norman won tennis's U.S. Clay Court
Championships in Orlando and wore a hat with the bill flipped up
a la Jesper. At the trophy ceremony he told the crowd, "Jesper
Parnevik is leading the PGA tournament down in Houston [oops]:
Parnevik received two other messages. One was from Snead, who
told Parnevik that he considered Greensboro a second home and
that if Parnevik ever wanted to come back, he should "just holler
for old Sam." Johansson made a small sign for the award ceremony
that said, OPUS ONE, HERE WE COME.
Opus One is a fine cabernet sauvignon, and Johannson had brought
a bottle of it in a bucket of ice (somewhere, Baron Phillip de
Rothschild was cringing) to the pressroom as his friend spoke
with reporters. Just like the victory cigar, it was a nice
gesture to cap a remarkable week for Parnevik, the master of the
unexpected and the inexplicable.
Did we mention that he doesn't smoke?
Parnevik's caddie. "That's a pretty good second read on every