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Parnevik shows welcome return to form

Jesper Parnevik has put behind him two seasons of relentless struggle and, with his confidence restored, looks a fairly safe bet to book a place on Europe's Ryder Cup team for this September.

After a lot of hard work, the 38-year-old Swede has rediscovered his ability to fade the ball, producing three top-seven finishes on the PGA Tour in his first five starts of the year.

He has already banked $593,067 in the United States, more than he managed from 31 events in 2003, and has climbed to 15th in the all-important European Ryder Cup world points list.

Parnevik knows he probably needs to win at least two PGA Tour titles this year if he is to force his way into the top five in the standings and earn an automatic spot on Bernhard Langer's team to face the U.S. at Oakland Hills, Michigan.

On current form, though, this seems likely.

"I haven't had this kind of confidence in my game since 2000, I would say," the fashion-conscious Swede told reporters at Torrey Pines, California before tying for fourth at last week's Buick Invitational.

"Even when I won in 2001, I didn't feel that good about my game.

"What I'm happy with now is I have my shot pattern back where you aim a certain way and trust it. I can hit my fade and trust it, just seeing a shot all the time that I feel good with."

Parnevik, a recognisable figure with his fashionable golf attire and trademark baseball cap with upturned peak, represented Europe at the Ryder Cup in 1997, 1999 and 2002 -- twice being on the winning side.

He would relish the opportunity of a fourth tilt at the U.S. from September 17-19: "It's definitely not something I want to miss.

"Being on the team the last three times, I would say the most fun that you can have on the golf course is the Ryder Cup. The atmosphere is by far beyond any tournament that we play during the year.

"I'm a little far back on the world rankings now, and that would pretty much be the way that I would qualify.

"But if I win, I would say a couple of times, I should qualify for the Ryder Cup."

By Parnevik's own admission, his game had reached its nadir 18 months ago, ironically during the last Ryder Cup at The Belfry in central England.

He ended 2002 failing to pass the $1 million-mark in PGA Tour earnings for the first time since 1996 and fared even worse last year, producing just one top-10 finish and overall earnings of $570,587.

He had earned his place as a wild card on Sam Torrance's team after five consistent seasons on the PGA Tour, but then alarmingly lost form after the 2001 Ryder Cup was postponed a year following the September 11 attacks on the U.S.

"I was playing so bad and Sam kind of held me off for a while," he recalled of the 2002 Ryder Cup. "I actually told him: 'I'm playing really shitty, so you don't have to pick me, put me in the lineup'.

"I had no idea where the ball was going and I was putting terrible."

Parnevik was then drawn to meet world number one Tiger Woods in the last of the final-day singles, a contest he managed to halve long after Europe's victory celebrations had started.

"I don't know how I tied that match, I have no idea," said the Swede. "I felt so bad, I was so nervous teeing off, it was scary."

All that, however, is now a dim and distant memory for the rejuvenated Parnevik. His game and confidence are back, and quite possibly also his Ryder Cup spot.

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