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Parnevik aiming to secure Tour card for 2004

Jesper Parnevik, the son of one of Sweden's most famous comedians, knows this is no laughing matter.

The five-time PGA Tour winner finds himself flirting perilously close to losing his fully exempt status for 2004. At 117th on the money list, he's just $32,871 -- every dollar counts -- inside the all-important 125th spot. Just a week ago the Stockholm native had taken up residency in the 145th spot.

"It's more of a case for me to get back to playing where I used to be," Parnevik said, "fighting for that win on Sundays instead of battling for the cut on Fridays."

Parnevik made notable progress last week. His share of fifth at the 84 Lumber Classic of Pennsylvania was his best finish since April 2002, when he was second at the BellSouth Classic. It also earned him $146,000, his first six-figure check of the year, to bring him within sniffing distance of a 2004 PGA Tour card.

"I've been working very hard on my game the last two years," said Parnevik, who has a 1:46 p.m. ET tee time Thursday in the Valero Texas Open. "It feels like it is a lot harder to get back to the top than it was to get there. When you are on the upswing and everything is going fine and you're playing well, golf is a really easy game. When you start to struggle it's very tough to get back to where you want to be."

Parnevik wants to be where he was from 1998-2001, which was winning PGA Tour tournaments. As late as 2001 Parnevik was a mainstay in top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He's winless since The Honda Classic that same year and is currently ranked 174th in the world.

"I've probably played better this year than I have in the past when I had a chance to win tournaments," Parnevik said. "It's hard to explain what the difference is.

"The margin of error in golf is so small. I would say it's probably the easiest sport in the world to be No. 1 in, but also the toughest sport in the world to be No. 1 in at the same time. Just because you can't really point a finger at what's missing."

A missed fairway here, failing to get up-and-down there, with a blown 4-footer mixed in adds up to three shots a round and 12 shots a tournament.

"Now you're missing cuts instead of winning," Parnevik said.

The three-time Ryder Cupper who was a Nick Price eagle-birdie-par finish short of winning the 1994 British Open has remained patient, however. Countless hours beating balls and rolling putts haven't yielded immediate results. The shadows did lift a week ago, though, and it was the sign Parnevik had been awaiting.

"It doesn't seem like the relationship between time spent on the range or time spent on the putting green really shows up in the results, which is the frustrating thing," he said. "That's why it was nice for me, for the first time this year, to have a good tournament last week."

Parnevik now has a chance to string together two good weeks. Another top-five showing would put him well inside the top 100 on the money list and virtually assure him of fully exempt status next year.

His focal point in preparing for Thursday's Valero Texas Open is putting. In 2000 and 2001, respectively, he was 34th and 36th in putts per round. Last year he dropped to 153rd and this year he is 102nd.

The work he has been putting in with noted instructors Dave Pelz and David Leadbetter is paying dividends.

"I feel a lot more comfortable with the putting now, which is a good thing," he said. "When you can stand over a 6 footer and feel like you are going to make it, it is a heck of a difference from standing there just hitting and hoping."

Hoping it goes in. Hoping you make the cut. Hoping you make the top 125. Hoping you avoid q-school.

"I'm pretty sure I won't be turning up there," Parnevik said. "My game is right where I want it to be right now. I'm starting to look for a win later this season rather than just making my card."

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