Duo driving out the demons

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Beneath that goofy upturned hat, the garish day-glo clothes and those Carnaby St. shoes, Jesper Parnevik is just another poor schlep with a fragile ego.

Like most pro golfers, he and Mark Calcavecchia go out every day hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

Yesterday, both were pleasantly surprised. Parnevik turned a marathon practice session Wednesday into an opening-round 66 at Shaughnessy Golf Club. And 45-year-old Calcavecchia went him one better to share the lead with Lucas Glover at five-under 65.

Parnevik sits alone in second place, a shot ahead of Brandt Jobe, Todd Hamilton, Scott Dunlap, Ted Purdy and 2002 Open champion John Rollins.

Ten other players are tied at two-under-par 68.

Ian Leggatt leads the 16-man Canadian contingent at even-par 70. Mike Weir and Vineland's Adam Short are at one over par.

Calcavecchia's head game revolves around putting. He has had success with the claw grip the past few years but, after a summer of mediocre putting, he tried to change before the PGA Championship

"I made every putt I looked at for the 27 practice holes before the PGA," he said. "I wasn't even lining them up. Thirty-footers were going in from everywhere with a conventional grip.

"I got out there Thursday on the first hole with a five-footer for bogey and I yipped the sh-- out of it. Missed the hole by eight inches. Next hole, I had a 10-footer for birdie and I yipped the sh-- out of that one too."

Needless to say, he went back to the claw and he is convinced he is not alone in doubting his abilities.

"I think it would surprise a lot of people,' he said. "Even the great players go through streaks. I couldn't believe my ears the other day when I heard on TV that Mike Weir was 178th or whatever in putting this year. He has one of the purest strokes I've ever seen.

"Sometimes you lose your confidence and it's like a chain reaction and it's hard to get it back. Even Ernie Els was talking at the British Open a couple of years ago about the little guy who sits on his shoulder and puts bad thoughts in his head. And Ernie doesn't know what a demon is, believe me."

Parnevik is acutely familiar with his demons.

"After the first couple of practice rounds, if you'd offered me even par in the first round, I would have taken it in a heartbeat and not even gone out today," he said. "This is probably the toughest course we've played all year."

Through the 1990s, Parnevik, now 40, was a big wheel in the realm of golf, routinely placed in the top 10 of the world rankings. But ever since a hip injury in 2000, he's had some difficulty living up to his own expectations.

"It's hard to be a top-10 player, then lose it and try to come back," Parnevik said. "It was a lot easier to get there in the first place. When you ride the wave to the top, everything is easy and you never think you're going to play bad again.

"Then, when you notice you can actually play pretty bad golf, then it's tougher to come back to that level where you feel confident over every shot, every week."

Earlier this summer, Parnevik reached a point where he was so discouraged with his game that he decided to walk away and gather himself.

"I took two months off this summer and didn't play golf," he said. "I came back and played well at the PGA and a few other tournaments."

But early this week, he was not confident about his prospects on such a demanding course as Shaughnessy.

"I spent seven or eight hours on the range (Wednesday) and at the end, I found something that worked for me," Parnevik said. "You have to be able to hit the driver straight or forget about it. Today I felt great with the driver."


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