FORMER Ryder Cup star Jesper Parnevik took his first tentative steps back into competitive golf yesterday and admitted: “This could be very embarrassing”.
The 45-year-old Swede feared his career was over in February when he was found to have a fractured vertebrae. But just two days after hitting his first shots since then Parnevik was testing himself in the Nordea Scandinavian Masters pro-am yesterday afternoon and would then decide whether to play the tournament itself today.
The 1994 Open runner-up was saved from spinal fusion surgery by a Michigan doctor who recommended a rehab programme instead, but Parnevik said: “It’s going slower than I was hoping for. I’ve also got sciatica down a leg and I’m pretty much only here because it’s my home event. I had liquid put into my spine and an injection into my hip as well.
“A few doctors thought I should fuse it, but then I found this guy and he thought I could postpone the operation. Yesterday was the first time I hit a driver and since I haven’t walked yet I don’t know how that’s going to affect it, so I’m just going to see.
“The first time I saw the specialist he said I had 5% functionality and then in May he thought it was about 15%. So the rehab is going in the right direction and he thinks I can get back to about 80% in time, but if I feel like I can’t break 80 then there’s no use playing.
“And even if the hip does not flare up I’m going to have to rethink my practice habits because I’ve been known to hit a lot of balls.
“There was no way I could continue playing the way I was. The 68 I shot at Riviera (his last event) was a miracle – in the second round the last few tee shots I hit only went about 100 yards. It was either going straight left or the dreaded duck hook because I couldn’t get through the ball. They don’t know when the fracture happened, but the hip was just worn out.”
Given he was the person to introduce Tiger Woods to his Swedish wife Elin, Parnevik was the fiercest critic of the world number one when his serial infidelity became public knowledge.
“We’ve not talked since,” he said. “There hasn’t been an opportunity, but I am sure there will be one soon. It’s in the past now.”
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