Jesper will play in the Skins Game over Thanksgiving with Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods and Greg Norman ' whew, now theres a foursome! Jesper met the press recently via the telephone, and you could tell this was going to be a straight news conference. Of course, its hard to be anything but straight when the questions are all straight.
Yes, he said, he will be aggressive when the Skins is played. You will challenge most holes, and if you are out of the hole, it does not matter that much, he said. That is what makes it so unique, that you can go 110 percent on every shot and every hole.
Jesper, though, is the original free spirit on the tour. He lives life, well, unconventionally. He tries a number of antidotes and fixes that would be considered most unorthodox. He insists that he merely has an open mind and will try anything once. I tend to be just a little bit skeptical, but, hey ' he makes a million every year while I make a buck-29. So I am certainly not going to say hes grandstanding.
You know what Im talking about. The volcanic sand thing ' he spent a summer or two swallowing the granules that he bought specially-prepared. It was supposed to cleanse the system. There is so much stuff we would consider unnatural, but if someone of dubious authority recommends it, hes going to try it. Replacing the fillings in his teeth to alleviate the allergies; trying the new diet because someone peered deep into his eyes and told him he should; the unconventional advisors, including the Russian who claimed to have powers of ESP; the man who collected samples of Parneviks blood, then claimed to send healing frequencies over radio waves to reach Jesper; the eyeglasses equipped with flashing lights to help synchronize neural firings between the two hemispheres of the brain; and on and on, you get the picture.
What is not widely known among American audiences is that this man can really play. Arriving in the United States from his native Sweden in 1994, he has adapted remarkably well and just kept improving. He finished 120th on the money list that first year, then he got the hang of American-style golf and finished 84th, then 58th, then in 1997 he broke through all the way to 12th. This year, still recuperating from last years arthroscopic hip surgery, he finished 31st but still won a million and a half dollars.
Maybe its his fatherhood that has made him seem rather normal. He has three daughters now, each born roughly two years apart. They dont give out names right away in Sweden, so it took awhile for the girls to have proper monikers. But Peg came along first in 1995. Penny followed in 1997, followed by little Phillipa in 1999. The mom is named Mia, so forget her having a fondness for Ps in the name. Neither, for that fact, is Jesper.
Jesper is six feet tall and weighs just 175 pounds, so hes a rather angular fellow. And hes been wearing the clothes of a Swedish pal of his named J. Lindeberg. The fact that he looks like a pipe cleaner is beside the point. He has said goodbye to traditional colors and said hello to pinks, greens, different shades of red and all manner of blacks.
Expect to see something very Lindeberg-iun at the Skins. He has some great new outfits coming out next year, says Jesper. I am sure he will have something sorted out for me.
Hopefully, it will be pants and a shirt. Incidentally, he has Charles Howell wearing Lindeberg clothes, too. Howell is built along the same lines as Parnevik, except he is even skinnier ' 5-10 and just 158 pounds.
The Skins will be held in the Palm Springs area and Parnevik has won there already, at last year's Bob Hope. He also won under similar conditions at Phoenix. Theres something about golf in the desert that is a little linksy, says Parnevik, especially golf in the desert in late winter.
I am a links-type of player and it seems like those courses play like that, he said. You know, you can run the ball a lot and roll it up to the green. You have a lot of options. Some courses leave you one shot and that is pretty much it.
Jesper did his 25 minutes on the phone and left. When it was over, I thought of a hundred things I should have asked him. There isnt a better interview on the PGA Tour ' Parnevik is going to give you a forthright, honest answer, and theres always a little surprise somewhere in there.
Someday, of course, Jesper will be gone. Not this year or next year, but before you know it, golf fans will look around and notice hes missing. And when hes gone, Jesper says, you can just remember him this way ' I came, I saw, I yipped.