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Parnevik not out of woods yet Swede passes Clarke, up 2 in British Open; Tiger 8 back after 64

THE BALTIMORE SUN

TROON, Scotland -- He will forever be remembered as the guy in the funny hat who forgot to look at the scoreboard and lost the 1994 British Open.

He will forever think about what happened that day at Turnberry when he took a two-shot lead into the final hole, thought he was behind by one and in need of a birdie, made bogey and lost to Nick Price by a shot.

"I was so pumped up that all I saw was the fairway and the green," Jesper Parnevik recalled the other day. "I always look at the leader board, but something strange happened."

Parnevik might get that chance again today, when he takes a two-shot lead into the final round of the 126th Open at Royal Troon. The 32-year-old Swede put himself in position to do that when he shot a 5-under-par 66 yesterday for a three-round total of 11-under-par 202, moving him past a fading Darren Clarke.

Three Americans are still legitimately in contention, and a fourth might have put himself on the fringe of the hunt. Fred Couples (70) and Justin Leonard (72) are five shots behind. Jim Furyk (70) is seven. And Tiger Woods is eight after tying the course record for an Open with a 7-under 64.

But for Parnevik, it is more than a chance to become part of history.

It is a chance to add the first major championship of his career to a solid resume and change his reputation as one of the flakiest players in the game.

"I felt like I could do whatever I wanted on the course," said Parnevik. "I felt great."

What Parnevik saw on the leader board yesterday made him play more aggressively on the back nine. It happened after Parnevik was still four shots behind Clarke after both played the front in 4-under.

"I tried to keep telling myself that anything could happen on the back nine," said Parnevik, whose front nine also included lagging a putt from 70 yards in the seventh fairway to within 15 feet, then saving par. "My main thought was to somehow get in the lead because I didn't want him to slip away with too many shots."

Clarke couldn't. Parnevik closed to within three shots with a 15-footer for birdie at the par-4 10th hole and to within two when Clarke bogeyed the par-4 11th. After Parnevik fell three behind with a bogey at the par-4 12th, Clarke bogeyed 13.

It was down to one when Clarke bogeyed 15, and tied when Parnevik made an eight-footer for birdie on the par-5 16th. Parnevik took the lead when he put his tee shot on the 223-yard 17th three feet away and made the putt. Clarke then bogeyed 18 to fall behind by two.

"I recognize all the feelings I had in '94," said Parnevik, who came from behind at Turnberry to take the lead, only to lose it as Price eagled the 17th hole and birdied the 18th. "They are identical. You get the same rush every time you make a birdie and you hear the same roars. It is just amazing."

For much of the last two days, the rushes and roars belonged to Clarke and his crowd of compatriots hoping he'd become the first Irishman to win the Open in 50 years. It seemed to be going that way yesterday, when he reached 13-under and stretched his lead from three shots over Justin Leonard coming into the day to four over Parnevik. "For a while he looked like he was unstoppable," said Parnevik. "I know how he feels when you play and nobody puts real pressure on you and you're four or five ahead. You kind of free-wheel it and it is like you're on automatic. Then all of a sudden when someone cuts it down to a two-shot lead, it feels like you're even behind."

But four bogeys brought Clarke back to par for the day and reality. It could have been worse, as Clarke saved par after missing the green three times on the back nine.

"Things got away from there around the back nine," said Clarke, 28. "I threw away a few and I saved a few shots. So hopefully tomorrow I'll play those nine holes a lot better than I did today."

Asked if he would look at the leader board today, Parnevik said, "I don't think I can help not to tomorrow because I'm playing with Darren, so I think we'll keep an eye on each other."

They also might want to keep an eye on someone else.

They might want to keep an eye on Tiger. Woods, who began the day at 4-over and 13 strokes behind Clarke, put himself on the leader board and among the leader's thoughts by tying the record set here by Greg Norman in the 1989 Open.

Parnevik said he wasn't concerned with Woods going into the round or about the reigning Masters champion making a historic comeback today. The largest 54-hole deficit that has ever been made up was five shots by Jim Barnes in 1920.

"I know Tiger thinks he still can win," said Parnevik. "I am sure he thinks he can shoot zero on this course if he gets everything going."

But can he win, or come close as Norman did here eight years ago when he shot an 8-under-par 64 to get into a playoff after trailing third-round leader Wayne Grady by seven shots before losing to Mark Calcavechhia?

"I wouldn't say [he can win]," said Parnevik. "If he gets off to a good start and the wind blows about 80 miles an hour, maybe. I think Tiger has to get close to breaking 60 anyway to have a chance [to win]."

The chances of Woods making another of his fabled comebacks might be more legitimate if Parnevik wasn't at the top of the leader board. The experience he went through at Turnberry will obviously prepare him for what he might encounter today 30 miles down the road.

"I have already finished second," he said. "Back then, I didn't know really what to expect. If somebody told me that I'm going to be finishing second starting the day, I'd say, 'Great, I'll take that.' The first time you're happy not to shoot 90 when stepping up to the first tee Sunday. I'm going out to win."

To become part of history.

To add to his resume.

And, mostly, to change his reputation.

British Open

The leader

J. Parnevik 70-66-66-202

and selected followers

Darren Clarke 67-66-71-204

Fred Couples 69-68-70-207

J. Leonard 69-66-72-207

Jim Furyk 67-72-70-209

Tiger Woods 72-74-64-210

Tom Watson 71-70-70-211

Greg Norman 69-73-70-212

Pub Date: 7/20/97

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