Walking off the 14th green, Justin Leonard never saw the man who pressed against the ropes and held up a bright yellow sign that said, “PARNEVIK.”
He didn’t need to.
With four holes to play Sunday, Leonard knew he was two strokes behind Jesper Parnevik and equally aware he needed to hole every putt to have any chance of winning the British Open.
That’s just what he did.
“All day I was behind, and most of the day behind two or three shots,” Leonard said. “I hit a lot of shots to 8, 10 feet. Yesterday I missed quite a few of those. Today I made them to be able to make up ground. Then I just hung in there and made some putts on the last few holes.”
First, it was a crucial 12-footer for par on the 15th. Then came a 15-foot birdie putt on the next hole to pull him into a tie. And when his 35-foot birdie putt on No. 17 disappeared into hole, Parnevik was the one who had run out of chances.
Leonard rode a hot putter at Royal Troon to win the British Open with a 65 for a 12-under 272 and a three-stroke victory over Parnevik and Darren Clarke.
It was the first time Leonard, a former U.S. amateur champion, had been in contention for a major championship. His swing held up under the pressure, and his putter responded as though he had been there before.
“When you putt like him, it’s not luck,” said Fred Couples, who shot 74 while paired with Leonard. “He was around the hole all day. I mean, the guy holed 140 feet of putts out there.”
Parnevik masters art of losing
Jesper Parnevik still doesn’t know what it’s like to win a major. He is becoming something of an expert, however, on how to lose one.
The zany Swede, who eats volcanic dust to maintain his inner physical health, was overtaken in the closing holes for the second time in a British Open. This time it was Justin Leonard who swept past him over the last three holes to fire a six-under-par 65 and win by three strokes.
Last time it was Nick Price who snuck up to win by one stroke in 1994 at Turnberry, where Parnevik failed to look at the leaderboard to see his rival’s score and gambled when he didn’t need to.
After making five birdies in the closing holes but hearing the roars of the gallery with Price behind him, Parnevik thought he needed a birdie at the last hole. He was wrong.
He made an ambitious aim for the pin, missed the green short and to the left and wound up with a bogey. Price came through, made par and took the title.
It was one of the most amazing finishes in Open history and Parnevik, who carded a 73 on Sunday to tie for second with Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, was asked if the latest result served as a grim reminder.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I was there.”
At Royal Troon, Parnevik, who plays on the PGA Tour, kept his eye on the scoreboard, but he winced each time he saw Leonard tearing away what was once a big lead.
While the American birdied six holes on the front nine, Parnevik seemed powerless to move out of reach.
Leonard birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to take the lead and it looked all over for the Swede. He missed a 4-foot birdie putt at 16 and trudged to the 17th tee with his head bowed and his confidence evaporated.
“All of sudden I came up to 17 and I watched his birdie on 17 and then the air kind of went out of my sails for good,” Parnevik said.
“This one hurt a lot more than Turnberry. This one is probably going to stick a little bit longer than last time. This one I actually thought I was going to pull off.”
Bogeys keep Tiger in the woods
Bad things came in threes for Tiger Woods at the British Open: a triple bogey, another triple bogey and a quadruple bogey.
“Unfortunately, I had those three bad ones this week and you can’t afford to have that in a major,” he said after shooting a 3-over 74 Sunday to finish 12 strokes behind winning American Justin Leonard.
“It’s not something you can work to prevent, but you just shouldn’t let it happen,” added Woods, who has played only two rounds below par in the U.S. Open and British Open since winning the Masters three months ago.
His first two blow-ups came on the most treacherous holes at Royal Troon - the par-4 10th and 11th. Woods took a 7 in the first round on 11 and an 8 in the second on 10, getting snared both times in a thicket of thorny gorse - a tangled evergreen that blankets the back nine.
In the final round he was licked at “The Postage Stamp,” the aptly named eighth hole - a 126-yard par-3. Woods took a 6.
“I never made any putts all day, and in order to make a move you have to make putts,” he said.
Fan a real golfing buff
A 24-year-old blonde with her face and body painted in tiger stripes, dashed across the 18th green at Royal Troon in little more than her birthday suit, just before British Open champion Justin Leonard was presented with the trophy.
The woman, wearing only a G-string and a pair of floppy ears, waved to the crowd gathering for the ceremony and spun around several times before she ran off. Police chased and arrested her and said she may be prosecuted.
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