SAN ANTONIO (AP) — They once decided a golf tournament among the wind-swept dunes of the British Isles. Justin Leonard and Jesper Parnevik were at it again, though this time the gorse of Scotland was replaced by the sun-baked cedar trees of the Hill Country.
It was, however, the same result as Leonard won the Texas Open for the third time Sunday, beating Parnevik with a 10-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff.
The finish brought back memories of the 1997 British Open when Parnevik began the final round at Troon five shots ahead of Leonard. But Parnevik shot a 71, and Leonard had a 65 to win.
Parnevik entered the round with a three-stroke lead over fellow Swede Mathias Gronberg and a four-shot margin over Leonard.
Leonard hasn’t won a major championship since, and he has made changes to get his game back to where it was.
“There’s no better way to validate (the changes) than to come out and win a golf tournament like this,” Leonard said.
Leonard, also the 2000 and ’01 winner at LaCantera Golf Club Resort Course, closed with a 5-under 65 to match Parnevik at 19-under 261. Parnevik, who opened with a 61 and led after each of the first three rounds, finished with a 69.
Earlier this year, Leonard switched instructors from Butch Harmon to his old coach Randy Smith. He also changed caddies and is trying to move to a home closer to Royal Oaks Country Club, his old club in Dallas.
Leonard is the first three-time Texas Open winner since Arnold Palmer in 1960-62.
“That’s pretty special,” Leonard said. “It’s great company to be in. I played pretty solid.”
Leonard had plenty of opportunities to win before finally finishing off Parnevik for his 11th PGA Tour title and first since 2005.
On the final hole of regulation, the Texan’s 14-foot birdie putt to win just slid by the hole. On the first extra hole, Parnevik took an unplayable lie after driving into the trees left of the fairway. But he hit a 153-yard approach to 3 feet to set up a par. Leonard chipped from the greenside rough to set up his par.
“That’s kind of the way Jesper plays,” Leonard said. “He’s not going to hit every fairway. He’s not going to hit every green. But he’s very creative. He hit some gutsy shots.”
Leonard, 1-4 in playoffs after the victory, missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the second hole. Parnevik had a 28-footer for birdie to keep the playoff going on the third extra hole, but left it a foot short.
The 42-year-old Swede was trying to win for the first time in 6 1/2 years.
“It’s tough to get into position to win, but I’m happy I got to feel it again,” Parnevik said. “It had been a while.”
Daniel Chopra, another Swede, shot a 66 to tie for third with Gronberg (69) at 16 under. Heath Slocum closed with a 62 to finish fifth at 14 under.
Parnevik struggled off the tee throughout the back nine. At the 15th, he pulled his drive well left. He immediately looked away, then walked through the gallery ropes to find it in the trees with a clear path to the hole about 165 yards away.
He punched it to 16 feet from the cup and made birdie.
But on the next tee, after a lengthy wait while Chopra got a ruling on a wayward drive in the group ahead, he pushed one far from the fairway. Then, with a provisional ball, he pulled one that hit a spectator in the head.
He found his first ball in the brush and punched it into the rough on the way to a bogey and a one-stroke deficit.
But he hit a hard 7-iron to 3 feet on the 190-yard 17th and made birdie to tie it going into the final hole.
“Give the credit to Justin,” Parnevik said. “He didn’t do too much wrong today.”
Just like 1997 at Troon.