Maybe you've seen them. Large objects near the tees and greens. Contain many boldly colored numbers. Raised on high posts for easy viewing. Hold up-to-the-minute information on the current golf tournament. They're called scoreboards. Why won't anybody look at them?
At last month's U.S. Open, young Ernie Els of South Africa said he didn't look at one for the last three holes. It cost him the outright win and forced him into a playoff the next day that he nearly blew. On Sunday at the British Open, young Jesper Parnevik of Sweden said he didn't look at one for the last seven holes. It cost him the championship.
"I don't know," Parnevik said blearily, minutes later. "I guess I screwed up."
What Parnevik did was think he was behind when actually he was ahead. He was 12 under par with a two-shot lead over Nick Price when he reached his drive on 18. Looking at his tricky lie in the rough off the right side of the 18th fairway, Parnevik was under the very mistaken impression he needed a birdie to win; so he went hell over shank for the flagstick, tucked tightly into the front left corner, to try to get one.
"I heard a lot of roars behind me," said the Swede. "I knew someone was doing good." But since Parnevik had decided to stop looking at the scoreboards after the 11th hole, he didn't know exactly who was doing precisely what. "I thought I was chasing someone." And what, he was asked, if you had known you were ahead by two? "Well," he answered ruefully, "I would have just hit for the middle of the green, I think."
Parnevik is known for flipping the brim of his Titleist hat upward, like a Tour de France rider. He should stop this. It may be cutting off the circulation to his brain.
The wedge Parnevik hit from the rough came down short and left of the green, snuggling itself into some nasty Scottish botany that you would not wish on a rattler. He chipped out short and two-putted to do the only thing he absolutely could not do and still win the tournament-make a bogey.
Bobby Jones once said that golfers learn nothing from their triumphs and everything from their failures. Parnevik was about to get a doctorate.
One hole behind Parnevik, Price, a man who'd had it up to here with learning from his failures at British Opens, knew what he needed to do. Price is a voracious reader. He not only reads greens, he also reads scoreboards, and the one by Turnberry's 17th green showed that after his birdie at 16 he was 10 under, two back of Parnevik. He reached the green of the par-5 17th in two. Now, if he was going to win the one tournament in the world he wanted more than any other, he needed to make this 50-footer for an eagle.
Naturally, he had no hope.