by Jeff Skinner
Another great week for golf is upon us as The Open Championship starts on Thursday at Turnberry in Scotland. The last time Turnberry hosted The Open was in 1994 when Nick Price strode to victory and marched to number one in the world. Price was in his prime then and had already won his first major in 1992, The PGA Championship. Price and Greg Norman were the best golfers in the world at the time. Price was aching to win an Open Championship after two near misses. At Troon in 1982 he squandered a three shot lead with six holes to play and lost to Tom Watson as Watson won his fourth Open Championship. At Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s he led by two at the start of the final round but lost to Seve Ballesteros.
With the weather at The Open Championship being so unpredictable and likely to change quickly, the Open can sometimes be a victim of the elements. That was the case at Turnberry. It was extremely dry at Turnberry for weeks prior to The Open. But once the Open started it rained off and on each day. The players took their advantage and bombarded the course with many rounds in the sixties. Price was able to shoot three rounds in the sixties to put himself in good position but still needed help from an unlikely source.
Jesper Parnevik was chasing his first major and was in great shape on the final day. However, he had made a conscious decision to not look at any leader boards on the back nine. He wanted to play his own game and was fairly sure he knew where he stood. It was a strategic error that probably cost him the title. Price was three strokes behind with three holes to play. He knew he needed to make something happen and he started with a birdie on sixteen. On the next hole, a par five he reached the green in two and was faced with a fifty foot putt for eagle. He stood over the putt two strokes back of Parnevik. Price said to his caddy, “We haven’t made a long putt all week. We’ve got to hope Parnevik bogeys eighteen.” With that in mind he stroked his putt and watched it go up over a ridge, break to the left and die in the hole. Price ran and jumped into the air like a kid at Christmas. An eagle on the next to last hole of a major usually pays a big dividend, and it did for Price.
Not realizing where he stood, Parnevik hit driver off the eighteenth tee. A choice he would later regret. He thought he needed to make birdie. His ball found the right rough a difficult lie. He tried to reach the green but came up short. After a mediocre chip he two putted for bogey. Price now led by one stroke and only needed to par eighteen for the championship he so dearly wanted. Price watched the leader boards and knew where he stood. Parnevik didn’t and he stood on the outside looking in. Price played a three iron to the fairway and a seven iron to the middle of the green. After a routine two putt, Price was the 1994 Champion Golfer and Parnevik was left wondering “what if?” If Parnevik knew he had a one stroke lead he said he would have played eighteen differently. If had only looked at a leader board or two.