Originally created 02/15/02

A refreshing turnaround for Parnevik



LOS ANGELES -- Jesper Parnevik made a bet with his caddie that he wouldn't take a break on the PGA Tour until he won.

"The way I was playing, it looked like it was going to be a long year," he said Thursday after a 6-under 65 for a one-stroke lead in the Nissan Open.

The sudden turnaround was as bizarre as the Swede himself.

For reasons not even Parnevik can explain, he decided during the pro-am round Wednesday to start putting cross-handed, often a sign of desperation among top pros and something Parnevik had never tried before in his life.

Then, he walked past a mirror in his hotel room that night and suddenly realized he wasn't rotating his hips properly.

The result?

Drives that topped 300 yards and wound up in the short grass. A complicated putting grip that produced two long birdies and one of his two eagles. And a 65 for Parnevik, who has played every event this year without cracking the top 10.

"Strange game," Parnevik said, and no one knows better than a guy who two years ago showed up at Riviera wearing hot pink pants.

One stroke behind on a crisp, sunny day at renovated Riviera was Jose Maria Olazabal, the winner last week in San Diego when he shot 67-65 on the weekend, which the Spaniard already considers a distant memory.

"This early in the year, it's easy to forget about what happened last week and concentrate on what you're doing," the two-time Masters champion said.

Also at 66 were David Peoples, Toru Taniguchi of Japan and Billy Andrade, who also found new life - not to mention a new contract with Mizuno.

David Duval, playing for the first time in three weeks, holed two long birdie putts and saved par three times on his back nine and was among those at 67.

"Not having played in a while, I feel very good about my position," Duval said.

Parnevik likes his position, too - not just his lead, but his new putting grip.

He points his left index finger down the shaft of the putter and his right index finger over his left thumb, with his right thumb attached to his left wrist. It sounds like he should have been doing the hokey-pokey, but instead he was holing a lot of putts.

"Everything fell into place very nicely," Parnevik said.

The only problem he encountered was his left elbow brushing against his ribs on the longer putts, but Parnevik found a quick solution.

"I take a deep breath to hold my stomach in," he said.

Unconventional, yes, although it was difficult to argue with the results.

Parnevik made a 20-foot eagle putt on the first hole and decided this new grip just might be the answer, at least for now. He also holed a couple of 25-footers for birdie, and chipped in from the fringe on the 315-yard 10th hole for eagle.

Parnevik has played Riviera well in the past, tying for 13th last year and finishing second to Kirk Triplett in 2000, the year he wore his bright pink pants in the final round.

The Swede dressed close to normal on Thursday, with chocolate-colored pants and an argyle sweater, but most of the attention was on his swing changes.

Parnevik had hip surgery at the end of 2000 and is still making some adjustments, such as rotating his hips more during the backswing.

"It hit me last night in the hotel room when I walked by a mirror," he said. "I thought maybe I should try that. My drives were much straighter and 30 yards longer."

He had a 9-iron into the 463-yard second hole, and a wedge on No. 12 after hitting a drive that was about 325 yards.

As for the putting change?

"When you're desperate, you're desperate," said Parnevik, who was 134th in putting coming into the Nissan Open.

For Andrade, this is a new beginning.

He missed the cut in his first three events, and his ego was further bruised when Titleist decided not to renew his contract. Andrade showed up in Hawaii with a blank bag and no club contract, enough to make any 15-year veteran feel like he doesn't belong.

"It was tough to explain my situation," he said. "I've been with that company my whole career. But numbers are numbers, and someone had to get cut."

He signed with Mizuno last week and feels like he's back in the picture.

"What I've done so far is irrelevant," Andrade said. "This is my beginning."

Divots: Jack Nicklaus came out to Riviera to work with his son, Gary, who has been struggling this year. Whatever they got accomplished will have to wait - young Nicklaus was an alternate and did not get in the field. ... The split fairway on No. 8 appears to make the hole easier than when only the left side was open. Now, players hit a straight shot down the right side, instead of having to slide it left-to-right around the trees. The drawback is the new grass. Duval found that out the hard way when he hit a quarter-sized pebble under his ball and came up short in a small ditch. ... Robert Allenby had a 73 and will need a good round Friday to avoid becoming the fifth straight defending champion to miss the cut.