George McNeill made three straight birdies late to beat Ryo Ishikawa at the 2012 Puerto Rico Open.
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
• FULL FIELD: Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com
• COURSE: Trump International GC-Puerto Rico (Championship), 7,506 yards, par 72. Located at the foothills of the El Yunque Rainforest, the Tom Kite design began as four separate nine-hole routings before Donald Trump acquired the property, prompting a 2007 revamp into two 18-hole layouts. The PGA TOUR added Puerto Rico to its schedule a year later, on a new Championship course that begins among scenic man-made lakes and winds its way to the ocean.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 300 points.
• CHARITY: Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico Inc., which works with more than 140 different charities to enrich the lives of island residents. More than $3 million has been raised in the tournament’s first five years.
• FIELD WATCH: Defending champion George McNeill and two-time winner Michael Bradley head a lineup of players from outside the world’s top 50 and not otherwise qualified for the WGC event at Doral. K.J. Choi (65th) and Charlie Beljan (67th) are the highest ranked entrants. … Northern Trust Open winner John Merrick is currently entered, but likely will get a spot in the Cadillac Championship when the final qualifiers are added Monday. … Other top names in the field: Paul Casey, John Daly, Chris DiMarco, David Duval, Lee Janzen, Justin Leonard, Rory Sabbatini, Henrik Stenson.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 269, Derek Lamely (2010).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Derek Lamely (3rd round, 2010), James Driscoll (1st round, 2011), Chris Tidland (2nd round, 2011).
• LAST YEAR: McNeill finished off a 3-under-par 69 with three straight birdies for his second PGA TOUR victory, dashing the hopes of Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa in the process. Playing on the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in his homeland, Ishikawa held a one-shot lead after his closing 68 when McNeill began his charge at No. 16. The runner-up finish still was Ishikawa’s best on U.S. soil, picking up enough earnings to gain special temporary membership for the rest of 2012. McNeill ended a five-year drought since winning the 2007 Frys.com Open in Las Vegas.
• STORYLINES: Puerto Rico will be a showcase of young talent with former U.S. Amateur winner Peter Uihlein, two-time U.S. Junior champion Jordan Spieth and former No. 1 amateur Patrick Cantlay all playing on sponsor exemptions. Cantlay, who turned heads at the 2011 U.S. Open and later shot 60 in Hartford, tied for ninth last month at Pebble Beach. … Si Woo Kim, 17, who earned a PGA TOUR card after tying for 20th at qualifying finals, will make his second start on a sponsor exemption. Kim can’t play as a member until he turns 18 in June. … Residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast have had a stranglehold on the trophy thus far. All four previous winners live within 130 miles of each other: McNeill and Lamely (Fort Myers), Bradley (Valrico) and inaugural winner Greg Kraft (Clearwater). At one point, Lamely even bought McNeill’s house.
• SHORT CHIPS: A certain family atmosphere hangs over this year’s roster. Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera is entered along with son Angel Jr., while Camilo Villegas is joined by brother Manuel for just the second time on the PGA TOUR. Manny is a Web.com Tour member; they also were in the same field for the 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic. … Blayne Barber, who disqualified himself from PGA TOUR q-school after realizing he hadn’t properly penalized himself for an infraction, is in the field on a sponsor exemption. He tied for 21st at the Northern Trust Open as a Monday qualifier.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. (GC). Sunday, 7:30-10:30 p.m. ET (GC).
Japan's Ryo Ishikawa starts the final round of the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com only three shots off the lead, but he has last year's tsunami on his mind.
It's one year to the day since a devastating earthquake -- and the resulting tsunami -- wreaked havoc on his homeland. Ishikawa went on to donate his 2011 earnings to relief efforts.
On the one-year anniversary, Ishikawa, 20, will wear a black ribbon in the final round at Trump International. He will also observe a moment of silence on the first tee.
Ryo Ishikawa came to Puerto Rico to try and improve his world ranking in hopes of qualifying for the Masters.
The 20-year-old from Japan learned on Tuesday he had been extended a special invitational to play at Augusta National, though. So now Ishikawa just has a golf tournament to win.
Ishikawa will start the third round of the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com in a tie for third, four strokes off the pace being set by Aussie Matt Jones. Ishikawa shot 67 on Friday and is 7 under for the tournament.
"Short game today was very good, and approach shots and putting," Ishikawa said. "Everything went well. That resulted in birdies and some nice par saves. So the short game was the key thing."
Ishikawa is making his first appearance at Trump National. A year ago he played in the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship but now that he has slipped out of the top 50 in the world -- Ishikawa currently ranks 53rd -- those events, as well as the Masters, can’t be taken for granted.
Ishikawa, a nine-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, says gesture from the Masters hasn’t changed his outlook, though.
"It is, of course, a relief that I got the invitation from the
Masters committee, but when I play a tournament, I concentrate on
the tournament," Ishikawa said. "So I don't think about anything
"So there are two aspects, yes, I feel relieved, but when I play a tournament, I will play to win the tournament."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
After making the turn at Trump International in 1 over, Jeff Overton was just trying hang on -- and hang in.
Turns out, he did both on a windy Thursday morning in Puerto Rico. Overton played the front nine, his second of the day, in 5 under, on the way to a 68 that left him one stroke behind the early leader, Ben Curtis.
Overton showed a flair for the dramatic on his final hole, the par-4 ninth, where he holed a 7-iron from 146 yards for eagle.
"(The) wind was howling off the right, and I started 25 yards right of the hole, and I hit a draw and I thinned it just a little bit which kept the ball down, otherwise I think the ball would have over-hooked and went in the bunker," Overton reported. "I really was just hoping it was going to be somewhat close, and the thing came down and just one‑hopper in the hole.
"I didn't know it went in, because you couldn't see it. Once I find out it was in, it was pretty exciting."
Overton, who was born and still lives in Indiana, wasn't as excited by Wednesday's official parting of the ways between Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
"I understand both sides," Overton said. "It's one of those things, it's like Tiger Woods with the game of golf. I mean, people are like, holy cow, how does he make $100,000,000 a few years ago? Well, if you seen him every time you come out to the golf course, look at the crowds when he's not there, and look at the crowds when he's there, and last week, I don't think I've seen that many people out on a course like that.
"You can't put a price tag on greatness, and when you have perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time, and this injury could keep him from going down as that. It's hard to justify not paying him the money that you know he probably deserves, but at the same time, you know, you're trying to rebuild a program and you have no idea if the guy is going to be able to produce like he did.
"... We wish him the best and I just hope that the injury doesn't affect the rest of his career, because he's an awesome player and it ... would be great to see him go off and do well somewhere else."