Jesper Parnevik recalls his major near miss, that jaunty cap and his role in the Tiger-Elin saga

Jesper Parnevik recalls his major near miss, that jaunty cap and his role in the Tiger-Elin saga

Jack Nicklaus and Jesper Parnevik enjoyed each other at Turnberry in 1994.
John Young/Young Media

Can you believe it's been 20 years since the 1994 Open?

It's been that long? Time flies.

What are your memories of that week?

I played with Jack Nicklaus the first two days and Tom Watson the second two. I have a great picture at home of me and Jack when he flipped his bill up on the 18th hole. He's hugging me, and his bill is flipped up, and we're both laughing [see opposite page]. I'd won the Scottish Open the year before, so I'd first gotten into the British in '93, and now I was in it again. Just playing with Jack was nerve-racking enough.

You had a two-shot lead as you stood on the 18th tee. Why didn't you look at the scoreboards that last day?

I was only, like, even par on the front nine, so it wasn't like I was in the lead or anything. Then I made five birdies on the back nine. My main focus was not to back off. I heard some roars, so my main focus was, "One more birdie, one more birdie." The first time I saw the scoreboard was when we walked off 18, and Watson, to my surprise, congratulated me on winning the Open, because I had a two-shot lead. But then Nick Price made that long putt for birdie on 16 and then another really long one for eagle on 17.

You made a bogey on the par-418th hole, when a par would have been good enough for a playoff with Price. Describe the bogey. You were in good shape after the tee shot, right?

I remember standing over that second shot; the pin was tucked left. The smart shot was to aim for the middle of the green, but I thought I needed a birdie. But who knows? Even if I tried to aim for the middle of the green, I seem to change my swing halfway down to go for the pin. Most of the time that's been good, but sometimes you get hurt by it.

In this case, you were. You missed the green left, chipped to six feet and couldn't save par. How long did it take you to bounce back?

I won the Scandinavian Masters in '95. It wasn't something I was down about for very long.

What did coming so close to winning a major do for your career?

I got recognized in a big way. People started making a big deal about my upturned hat. I went from being happy to play with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson to almost winning, so I got a boost from that. I figured I couldn't really win in just my second Open, and in my first chance to win it. I finished second at Troon three years later, and when Mark O'Meara won at Birkdale [in 1998] I missed the playoff by two shots.

At 49, you've been off the radar of American golf fans. What have you been up to?

I've played three times on the PGA Tour [through the end of April]. I have past-champion status. And I've played the Tour. I'm going to do a bit of everything this year to keep my game in shape for the Champions Tour. I turn 50 on March 7, 2015. It was never my intention to play out there, but Nick Price and some other guys love it so much, so I'm looking forward to it. It will be like a new beginning.

Do you still wear the upturned cap?

I do.

Are you healthy?

I've been injured quite a bit. I've had a few hip surgeries, and I cut my finger off in a boat accident a few years ago, which they sewed back together. It was the index finger of my right hand—it got stuck in a winch on my boat. It was cut off through the bone, but it was still attached with a piece of skin and some muscle. I still have the boat. I cringe every time I see that winch. I don't go near it. The finger works good enough, although I still have no feeling in the top half. But I'm as healthy as I've been the last five or six years.

Back in 2009, in the aftermath of his sex scandal, you said that Tiger Woods should "maybe not 'Just do it' " and that he wasn't a great guy. You, of course, are the one who introduced Elin Nordegren to Tiger when she was your nanny. Have you and Woods made up?

Tiger and I are members of the same club in Florida, the Medalist. I never hold a grudge. It was over pretty quick, but that was my initial reaction because Elin was like a daughter to me. Tiger and I played nine holes out at Medalist, so there's no animosity there. Everybody makes mistakes. He's been dealing with enough stuff in his life. You say what you think and move on.

How is Elin doing?

I spend a lot of time with Elin, and they're pretty good friends, she and Tiger. I think everything's been worked out. She seems to have let go of the whole thing. They have kids together.

You have four kids. What age is your oldest?

Peg will be 19. She wasn't even born the week of the '94 Open! She'll be off to college soon.

Will you try to qualify for this year's Open?

I'm planning to play the Scottish Open, to try to get in that way. Or I might play a qualifier.

As your old friend Tom Watson might say, you're never too old to win an Open.

I wanted him to win so badly at Turnberry in 2009. That would've been unbelievable. It's like if [Miguel Angel] Jiménez had won the Masters this year, it would've been the greatest thing for golf. He's such a character—he's the coolest guy in the game.

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