Popeye still hungry to win

Craig Parry has watched fellow Aussie Stuart Appleby struggle with his golf game for the past 18 months. Sure, he felt for him – few golf pros who have tasted the highs and lows of tournament golf wouldn’t feel the same way.

Yet ‘Popeye’ was just as excited as anyone to see his former Presidents Cup team-mate bounce back, shoot a record 59 and win last month’s Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.

As a matter of fact he wishes he could do the same – and right about now would be just fine.

Popeye still hungry to win Popeye still hungry to win

“What do you reckon? I’d love to shoot a score like that,” grinned Parry, who these days plies his trade on the ‘road-less-travelled’ – at least as far as Australians are concerned – the Japanese Tour.

And while he concedes that tour does get less publicity than the US and even the European tours he knows how to remedy that, quick-smart:

“Win something and the publicity soon takes care of itself,” Parry told the Golfer Pacific.

“Put it this way, if I win something over there [Japan], I’m sure the phone will start ringing again.

“But yes, you do have to win.

“I’m certain that if I win a golf tournament I’ll get plenty of publicity back here in Australia, without any problem.

“You have to perform well on the golf course, do that and you will get the recognition for it.”

Parry would probably be the first to admit he is not as “driven” these days to succeed on the world stage.

And while he no longer competes in the United States – not regularly anyway – he is still responsible for one of the greatest shots in PGA Tour history, holing his mid-iron for an eagle two to beat Scott Verplank in a sudden-death playoff for the 2004 Ford Championship at Doral.

It is a shot most Australians would rate as one of the most memorable shots by an Aussie in any tournament anywhere in the world.

And despite all the great shots he has played in his career, Parry admits that one only ranks beside his chip-in at Royal Melbourne in the Presidents Cup in 1998.

Mind you, that was when he was paired with Shigeki Maruyama and the pair did that to beat a couple of fairly high-profile Americans named Tiger Woods and Fred Couples.

Even at age 44, Parry still dreams of meeting – and beating – the best players in the world.

“When the British Open rolls around each year and they’re playing courses like St Andrews of course you still wish you were there,” he says.

“Especially a place like St Andrews where the shorter hitters get their chance to play well.”

Parry concedes the game of golf has changed a lot in the past few years and it is now the bigger guys who definitely have an advantage – maybe more so with the changes in equipment.

“It is a huge advantage being taller when you play golf now,” he said.

“And that edge becomes even bigger when you hit it in the rough because of the angle that the club can come at the ball.

“Yeah, I guess you have to just stay out of the rough.

“The way equipment has changed over the years, it has definitely gone towards the taller players.

“There was a time when five foot 10 used to be about the perfect height for a golfer.

“Now I would say it is over six foot.”

It’s probably no coincidence that Jack Nicklaus is five foot 10 inches and Tiger Woods is six foot one. But Jack won 18 majors and Tiger hasn’t got him yet – and maybe he never will.

Parry, at just five foot six, has made a habit of cutting ‘tall’ poppies down to size his entire life. After all he has won no less than 23 professional tournaments in his career.

“It doesn’t really matter where you play nowadays – I’m just happy to be playing where I can at the moment,” he said.

“Sure I still play some good golf now and again but I still get frustrated when I hit a bad shot.

“When I am in Japan I practise pretty hard and try to get myself ready for the events I am playing in.

“I probably don’t work as hard on my game when I am at home – I’d rather take my sons out for a game at Concord.

“Yeah, I guess the kids do come first these days.”

And with the rise of guys like Jason Day and the rebirth of guys like Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby, where does Parry think our next Major champion will emerge?

“You know something, I still think Adam Scott is our best prospect,” he said.

“Even though he hasn’t performed as well as everyone would have liked I still think he has that much ability that he could be the next Aussie to win one of the big ones.

“I agree there are plenty of other young guys who could also do the job – guys like Jason Day and a few others certainly have the capabilities to win one.

“But Scott has the talent.

“No, I don’t think Appleby and Allenby have missed the boat as far as winning a major is concerned.

“Whilst ever they have the opportunity to play in the Majors they have a chance to win one.

“Time will tell whether or not they are playing well enough at the right time – we’ll just have to wait and see.”

With the Majors done and dusted for 2010, we’ll just have to wait for 2011.

And if Craig Parry brings his A game to the course, his Majors career might not be finished either.

Outsized: Craig Parry admits the modern game is built for taller, younger and stronger players – much in the ilk of world No.1 Tiger Woods.

Career Highlight: Craig Parry and Shigeki Maruyama celebrate after Parry had chipped in on the final green to win their Presidents Cup match against Tiger Woods and Fred Couples. ‘Popeye’ still rates that as his greatest ever shot in tournament golf.