Jesper Parnevik allowed himself to dream of a unique Swedish ‘treble’ on Scottish soil after firing a bogey-free 68 to tuck in just behind joint leaders Kohki Idoki of Japan and Joe Durant of the USA at the halfway stage of the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex at Carnoustie.
The colourful 51-year-old found himself an unlikely contender to claim the 30th Senior Open, more than two decades after falling agonisingly short of winning The Open Championship at Turnberry on the west coast of Scotland in 1994.
Parnevik ended a faultless round, the feature of which was an eagle three at the 14th, to muscle his way into a share of second place alongside Americans Olin Browne and Tom Byrum, Australian Peter Fowler and Carlos Franco of Paraguay.
During the last two weeks, Scandic drama has been a feature on the TV sports channels, as first Alex Noren captured the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in Inverness, then Henrik Stenson delivered a long-awaited first men’s Major Championship for Sweden in The Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Parnevik, still an ‘off-the-wall’ character with his own reality TV show ‘The Parneviks’ enjoying a second series, expressed surprise to be a leading contender. He said: “All I can say is that it must be inspiration from the Stenson effect. First Alex, then Henrik – maybe now we can try to get the Trifecta up!”
It has been an unprecedented period of success for Scandinavia, and Parnevik – the original Swedish trailblazer - is excited to his fellow countrymen.
He added: “I think we’ve been on the golf map for the long time, but more especially in the women’s game. We were kind of spoiled by the majors won by Annika Sorenstam and others. But no-one has played like Henrik those last five years so this was just a matter of time. All of us Swedes are overjoyed.
“I always love coming here. I love links golf. I’ve always loved the golf course even it tortured me a little bit in the 1999 Open here. It’s a lot of fun and inspires me.”
Whether or not the ‘Stenson factor’ can be used to his advantage over the weekend remains to be seen, but Parnevik is still struggling with a back problem which limited his play to one round of golf between the beginning of June and Monday of this week.
“I actually had no expectations this week. None,” he said. “So, like I said, it must be just pure inspiration from Stenson’s win and my love of links golf.”
“I came into the tournament with only thoughts of trying to make the cut,” said the Japanese player. “The wind was blowing so hard in practice that I made bogey after bogey. However, I’ve played well in the calmer conditions. I changed my wedge to one with more loft before the event and it must have worked because I holed that bunker shot at the last.”
Durant, with five runner-up finishes on the US Champions Tour, broke from the pack late in the day to card a four under par 68 to join Idoki on 137, thanks to a superb birdie three at the final hole. He said: “I played here in The Open in 2007 and had to birdie the last to make the cut. My putt just lipped out and I was so disappointed.
“I just want to go out and play solid golf again tomorrow and keep giving myself opportunities. If I can do that, then you never know.”
Carnoustie was at its receptive best following Wednesday’s thunderstorms and Browne took advantage with four birdies in the opening five holes on his way to a best-of-the-week 66, while Fowler reeled off four in a row from the 11th to sign for a second successive 69.
Two shots off the pace and looking menacing is another United States player, Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Masters and Open Champion. A round of 70, to follow an opening 69, leaves O’Meara in a position to strike over the weekend on 139, five under par, along with another Swede, Magnus Atlevi, and American Scott McCarron.
Second on his debut in 2007, O’Meara said: “It would mean everything to do the double of Open and Senior Open. This one would be very special. I came very close when Tom Watson won at Muirfield but I’ve got my work cut out. There are a lot of great players on the leader board.”
Among the group on four under par are Tom Lehman, Open Champion 20 years ago, and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, who carded a 70 which included a double bogey at the 16th.
One of the most impressive efforts of a high quality second day was the six under par 66 of England’s Paul Broadhurst, thanks to a blistering back nine of 30. Fellow Englishmen, Roger Chapman and Carl Mason are a further stroke behind.
Meanwhile Watson followed up an opening 74 with a fine 70 to make the halfway cut comfortably on 146, two over par.
However, three-time Senior Major winner, Colin Montgomerie, missed the cut after his exertions in The Open at Royal Troon, shooting a second round of 73 for a total of 149, one shot outside the mark.
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