Jesper Back - Thanks to the Basket

RSS

He should be easy to spot ' he will be the man on the practice range with an empty ball basket placed strategically behind him. But Jesper Parnevik always was easy to spot, with pants and shirt that look like they were painted on him. And dont make me tell the story of the crazy upturned cap bill again ' please.
 
Jesper has been MIA for the better part of two years now, up until last week when he magically re-appeared at the Sony Open with a tie for 15th. Back in 2000, he finished eighth on the tour money list. But that was followed by three years when he steadily cratered, punctuated by last season when was down at 118th.
 
You know, said Parnevik, I have a clue where the golf ball is going for a change. I haven't really had a clue the last two years. It's nice to be able to hit shots and trust it I feel like I'm just back to where I was a few years ago.
 
He had hip surgery back in 2001, and bad swing habits gradually crept into what was always a quick whip-whip action. He never could figure out what exactly was the problem. But recently he noticed Vijay Singh at his second home - on the range. And he noticed a pole that Vijay had placed behind his right shoulder, forcing him to swing around it to hit the ball.
 
I did my own version of it, said Parnevik. I just put a big basket behind there and kept hitting, because it felt like when I got my hip problem that I started collapsing the left side. So my club starting getting way stuck inside.
 
And just having the basket there makes me keep the club in front of me all the time. So I've just been hitting thousands and thousands of balls that way. I'm hitting a nice cut now again.
 
At first, he repeatedly whacked the basket on his backswing. That action often happens when the club gets too far inside. But the basket eventually paid dividends in his first round of the year. Parnevik shot a 65 at Sony, followed it up with a pair of 68s and a 70, and won $76,800.
 
He remembered the 2002 Ryder Cup, the point when his psyche was at an all-time low. European captain Sam Torrance was wondering what to do with Jesper, who had played magnificently in a couple of previous appearances. Now Torrance was in a quandary about where he should play Parnevik. Parnevik sensed the reluctance to set him down ' and addressed it.
 
I was playing so bad. And Sam kind of held me off for a while. I actually told him, I'm playing really (badly), so you don't have to pick me, put me in the lineup, said Jesper.
 
There was no way he could slink out of there and go home - he had to at least play in the singles. And as luck would have in, he drew the No. 1 player in the world.
 
There I am, I have no idea where the ball was going, he said. I was putting terrible. To be thrown in with Tiger in the last group in the last day, I just said, Wow, this could be over after ten holes.
 
It wasnt, of course. Parnevik shocked the golf world by repeatedly squiring off the hook, eventually gaining a tie with Tiger. I just fought for my life out there, he said. I have no idea how I did that.
 
Neither did anyone else, least of all Woods. And that might have been an upswing to what would happen in 2003. But - it wasnt.
 
It (his game) was never consistent enough to give me any confidence, because I would hit three great shots, and then one would go off flying and I would have no clue why I did it, he said.
 
That obviously is not the way to play the PGA Tour. He struggled fitfully all last year, occasionally seeing a brief bit of the old magic come back, but usually just feeling somewhat adrift. Then he happened on Singh and the unusual backswing apparatus, and he feels he finally is on the right track.
 
But then, you have a little bit of the confidence issue, as well, he cautioned. I'm feeling pretty confident now, but it's not really 100 percent yet because you still have some doubts from when you played bad for a couple of years. It's pretty hard to be 100 percent confident straightaway. It's getting there, definitely.
 
Parnevik will try for the second time this year at a comfortable old spot this week, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He won there in 2000. He returns in 2004 with the same pants, the same shirt, the same upturned bill on his cap. One thing that will be different, though ' the empty ball basket behind him of the driving range.
 
Email your thoughts to George White