Parneviks Collapse in 97 Leads To Leonards Victory


For the second straight year, there was a fat lead to play with Sunday in the British Open in 1997. Tom Lehman had ridden out the string successfully with a six-shot bulge in 1996. In 1997, Jesper Parnevik went to the fifth tee Sunday with a four-stroke cushion.
Only thing was, someone forgot to tell Justin Leonard about proper British etiquette. He brashly went about his business, eating away at Parneviks lead as though it were just another practice day. By Sunday evening, Leonard had chewed it all up and then some, winning the British Open by three shots.
Actually, as is almost always the custom when someone overtakes a leader under such overwhelming circumstances, Leonard didnt exactly win it as much as Parnevik watched it slip-slide through his fingers.
Parnevik had been able to negotiate the mine fields that is Troons back nine for five-under-par the first three days. But Parnevik suddenly was as miserable over the finish as he had been brilliant before. He carded five bogeys over the last 13 holes and finished well out of the running. A missed five-footer at 13, a missed four-footer at 16, and along with all the other misses, he was as forgotten as yesterdays newspaper.
This one hurts a little bit more than Turnberry, he said. Id been riding positive momentum all week, and today, I think all the pressure was a bit too much.
I had to scramble to save my life on every hole. It felt like I had to make a six-footer on every hole to stay alive. You can only last for so long.
Enter Leonard, who found the going easy the final round. He started the day five shots off the lead, but ground it out, making par after birdie, birdie after par.
Leonard had come to Scotland a week before with caddy Bob Riefke, and the two played the near-empty course without any distractions. For 80 holes they played, which well prepared him for anything the tournament could throw at him.
When it was all over, the 25-year-old Leonard became the youngest British Open champion since Seve Ballesteros in 1979, and the biggest comeback winner since Jim Barnes in 1925.
Coming in here, having seen Tiger and Ernie do so well, maybe I realized its okay to win a tournament like this being the age I am, said Leonard. Maybe that was in the back on my mind somewhere.
More British Opens of the Past