Different Strokes: Spaceman Parnevik back in the world of winners

Eccentric Swede puts travails behind him with Champions Tour success

One of the strangest statistics in men’s professional golf is that no player from Sweden has ever won a Major championship.

If, in recent years, it had seemed only be a matter of time before Henrik Stenson would lift one of them, and certainly that weight of expectation still rests on his shoulders, the return to winning ways of Jesper Parnevik on the Champions Tour in the United States reminds us that once upon a time he was the Swede who was seen as most likely to make the breakthrough.

For sure, Parnevik – a true character who wore funny hats and chomped on cigars and actually included eating volcano sand as part of his diet at one point – had his chances, most notably in the British Open where he was twice a runner-up: his best chance of all came in 1994 at Turnberry, where he bogeyed the 72nd hole to finish a shot shy of Nick Price who had covered the last three holes in three under to steal in.

Parnevik never did win his Major and, truth be told, it had seemed his days of winning anywhere were finished as hip and back injuries blighted the latter part of his playing days.


Those injuries were caused and compounded by a diligence to hitting shots on the range that had him vying with Vijay Singh as the king of range rats, while other injuries – broken ribs from a Segway accident and almost severing his index finger in a boating accident – also took a toll.

But his return to the winner’s circle – in the Insperity Invitational on the Champions Tour – provides proof that miracles of a kind do occasionally happen.

Indeed, Parnevik, back in 2009 when at his wits’ end in dealing with one injury after another, admitted: “I’ll have to hope for a miracle if there’s going to be any more competitive golf.”

So, some 15 years after his last win as a professional golfer, Parnevik – pain-free again and living the life of a tour pro – got the job done to claim his first Champions Tour event.

His words afterwards were honest and gave an insight in the battle he endured to get playing again.

“I thought I was never going to win again. I pretty much thought (I would) not play again because a lot of times if I hit 15 balls, I could not get out of bed the next day. It was that bad. So I was not even contemplating winning . . . it was more thinking about if only I could just keep it going to come out and enjoy it (on tour).

But then all of a sudden, I get better and then – knock on wood – I have been feeling good ever since.”

Parnevik was a trendsetter, who played in three Ryder Cups and, until Stenson’s arrival, was the most famous Swedish male golfer. His last days on the main tours may have been blighted by a succession of injuries that would have seen many others simply lock away the tools of their trade. It may only be on the Champions Tour but it is good to see Jesper – aka The Spaceman – back in the swing and winning again.

Sawgrass feature hole a test for the best

How does Brandt Snedeker describe the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass?

“It looks easy on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it’s hard on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday . . . there’s no way to fake it in there.”

And, as ever, the 17th – the signature hole at Sawgrass – will demand everyone’s attention in the quest for The Players Championship trophy given the Par 3s impact on determining the winner.

In last year's tournament, won by Rickie Fowler, a total of 45 balls splashed into the lake surrounding the island green. The PGA Tour started keeping count of water balls some 13 years ago, with the record at 93 which came in the 2007 tournament.

Designer Pete Dye hadn't initially planned on an island green for the 137 yards hole. During construction, lakes were dug as hazards; including what was actually planned to be a small pond near the 17th green.

However, work crews discovered a sand base which was excavated and used to create stadium-like mounds for spectator viewing. The upshot? A green almost completely surrounded by water apart from the narrow strip that allows players and caddies to reach the putting surface.

By the numbers – 46/50

The field for The Players Championship – traditionally one of the strongest outside of the Majors – boasts 46 of the top-50 players from the world rankings. The notable absentees are Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood, Thongchai Jaidee and KT Kim.

Word of Mouth

"I walked over there just to see if the guy was all right. He had this big welt on his head. I can't be a doctor; every time I see blood I just start cringing." – James Hahn after beating Roberto Castro in a play-off to win the Wells Fargo. Castro's third shot to the first play-off hole had hit a spectator on the head.

“Last putt, my hands shake, my legs shake. I not have it this bad before, my putter shaking.” - Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn on how she felt standing over the winning putt in the Yokohama Tire Classic, the 20-year-old’s first win on the LPGA Tour.

Twitter Twaddle

“For the record my putter is very very slightly bent . . . Not broken. And I’m gonna drop some blowsnakes next week with it!” – Zac Blair – who was disqualified at the Wells Fargo for bashing his putter over his head and changing its playing characteristics – on his intention to keep it in the bag for the Players.

"Hard luck everyone . . . " - Colm Campbell after winning the Flogas Irish Amateur Open, which also secured him a spot in the field for next week's DDF Irish Open.

“I remember my first visit @whufc_official in the 80s and wondering why no West Ham fans were getting off at West Ham station!! #uptonpark” – Paul McGinley getting a tad nostalgic on the Hammers moving out of the old stadium for their new turf at the Olympic Stadium.

In the bag – James Hahn (Wells Fargo Championship)

Driver: PXG 0811X (9 degrees)
3-Wood: PXG 0341 (15 degrees)
17-Degree Hybrid: PXG 0317
3-Iron: PXG 0311T
4-9 Irons: PXG 0311T
Pitching Wedge: PXG 0311T (47 degrees)
Sand Wedge: Titleist Vokey SM5 (54 degrees)
Lob Wedge: Titleist Vokey Design (60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey Works 2-Ball
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Know the rules

A player begins his downswing with the intention of striking the ball but decides during the downswing not to strike the ball. The player is unable to stop the club before it reaches the ball, but he is able to swing intentionally over the top of the ball. Is the player deemed to have made a stroke?

No. The player is considered to have checked his downswing voluntarily by altering the path of his downswing and missing the ball even though the swing carried the clubhead beyond the ball.

If the player had not successfully checked his downswing (i.e. he had struck the ball), he is considered to have made a stroke. However, any doubt regarding the player’s intent must be resolved against the player.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times