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).