But, from the beginning on Sunday, it vas Parnevik's fans who were covering heir eyes. As Leonard made the turn in front of Parnevik, he had trimmed the five-shot lead to one. Parnevik made it two with a huge birdie on the diabolical Railway hole, the 11th, after a man in a passing rain leaned out the window and hollered, 'Fool!" Then it all began to go poof! on the magician. He bogeyed 13 and missed a makable birdie try at 14.
In the meantime Leonard started a remarkable streak in which, said Riefke, "his eyes got real big and the holes started getting real big." He made a terrific blind save on the 15th followed by a chip to 12 feet that went dead center. At the par-5 16th, he made a terrible chip for his third shot. "Anybody in this room," Leonard told the huge press contingent afterward, "could've gotten it closer than that." Again, Leonard stared at a 15-footer. The chip ticked him off so much that he told Riefke, "Screw it. I'm just going to make this thing. Screw everybody." He deposited it for a birdie. You've got to like a guy who can putt for vengeance.
Suddenly, Leonard was tied for the lead. Behind him, Parnevik was starting to play the 16th. Leonard hit his three-iron to the back of the green at the 223-yard par-3 17th. "I looked at it, and I thought, Hmmmmm. Perfect spot. A ball out on the right. And it just felt good," he would say later. Joe LaCava, who was caddying for Leonard's claying partner, Fred Couples, gestured to Riefke with his eyes that the putt was as good is made. Riefke turned his palms up and whispered, "I know! I know!" Back in Dallas, teacher Smith knew, too. "It's like he gets this Shivas Irons thing in his eyes. You just know." They all were right. The hole and the ball made for each other like long-lost relatives. Center cut. Birdie. A giant Scottish roar. "The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up," Leonard said.
Back on 16, Parnevik had an easy four-footer for birdie that he thought was for the lead. He pushed it out of the hole. That was bad, but you should've seen his face when he got to the 17th tee and saw that instead of being tied, he was one down. Maybe this reading-scoreboards thing is overrated.
Parnevik bogeyed 17, and when Leonard two-putted the 18th for a par and a 65, good for 12-under 272, Parnevik was done. Just for agony, he bogeyed 18 too, to lose by three and fall into a tie for second with Clarke, a backpedal that cost him $168,000. As he came off the 18th green, Parnevik looked so glum you were sure his brim was going to go limp. "Turnberry hurt," he said, "but this one is going to hurt longer. I think the pressure was too much." Poor guy. It was his fifth runner-up finish this year.
For Leonard, there was nothing to do but admire his name, inscribed on the trophy not five minutes into his reign as British Open champion—"Wow, pretty fast work," he said. "Does he have a dry cleaners in Dallas?"—and then the tiger-striped female streaker on the 18th green. "I got to see this," he said as he bolted from a ring of writers. Relax. He's single.
If golfers were stock, Leonard would be about to split. He's gutty, winning from five back at Troon. He's no longer a midget off the tee with his sentimental persimmon driver. He has been killing a metal Titleist driver and three-wood for two months, and the metal woods have added a wonderful edge to his game—the eagle. He has a game that seems to fly at all the majors. He's yet to finish out of the top 10 in a PGA, he wound up seventh at this year's Masters, and he has made steady improvement in the U.S. Open, from 68th to 50th to 36th last month. He has won where you have to win to be great: the U.S. Amateur, the NCAA championship and now the World Heather, Gorse and Haggis Championship. He comes from money but doesn't play for it. Even when he wasn't exempt for the British, for instance, he hopped the pond twice to try to qualify against all those Nigels and Simons, at no small expense. "I just learn so much about myself over here," he said, "and about the history of the game." (Hello, Scott Hoch? Are you listening?)
On Sunday night Leonard became part of that history, the kid who put on one of the best final four-hole blitzes in British Open lore, and he didn't want to let it slip through his golf glove yet. After it was over, after he'd done all the interviews and the champagne toasts and packed the silver claret jug, he gathered his caddie, his friend Corey Pavin, a couple of Scots he'd befriended, a couple of pizzas from the hotel restaurant, more than enough pints of lager from the bar, the best cigars he could find and a couple of disposable cameras, and sneaked out to the 17th green. He plunked the comestibles down on the spot where he had sunk a putt and a Swedish heart.
For a while they just sat there, nobody saying much of anything, most of their mouths being used for huge smiles. Finally, Leonard said, "This is too good," and he sat back and blew cigar smoke at the moon and let wash over him the memory of the finest moment so far in what looks like a fine little life.