Yesterday's PGA tournament finish, the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, was just riveting, one of those that proves the case for the best competition being among players of just under the first rank. Jesper Parnevik opened with 61, 65, 66. He hasn't won in six years. He was in 146th place on the money list, so in danger of not having a PGA exempt card for the first time in 14 years. He has a wife and three daughters, he's the son of
E.g., "Yes, it's nice to be leading the tournament, but when you've seen nothing but bad shots come off your club for four or five years, it's those bad shots that stick with you." And, of his putting, "I told my caddy, if you could feel what I feel over these putts, you'd throw up."
Main competition, Justin Leonard, schoolboyish Texan with 9 wins, but none in a very long time, also low on the money list, also recovering his game.
And in the mix, two other Swedes, Daniel Chopra and Matthias Gronberg, who were playing beautifully. Also playing for their livings.
Parnevik completely came to pieces on the back nine. Couldn't hit a fairway, missed them by 50 yards left and right. Made unbelievable recovery shots from the trees, sometimes for birdie. Made 4 birdies coming down the stretch on nothing but pure heart.
The tournament ended in a four-hole playoff, with Leonard finally sinking a winning putt.
It was fabulous golf, and fabulous sport, even better than the tournament at Hartford earlier this year, which featured a battle between Jay Williamson, a forty-something trying to break into the PGA tour (playing on a sponsor's exemption) and young hotshot Spenser Mahan. Which in turn reminded me of another fabulous tournament on that same course a few years back, when Stuart Cink battled Dave Stockton, Jr. for the title.
I admire Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh as much as any golf fan does, but it's tournaments like this week's Texas Open that really grab me, where the game is the thing. And for a nice outcome, Parnevik earned his tour card back — and so did Gronberg and Chopra.