What they said: George McNeillMarch 11, 2012
PGA TOUR staff
MORE INTERVIEWS: Puerto Rico Open transcript archive GEORGE McNEILL: The last few holes I knew that nobody really was making a move. I saw the leaderboard after 14, I think, and on 15 -- on 15 I didn't hit a very good lay-up shot and then hit a poor third, so I kind of scrounged around and made a par. Henrik actually had, I thought, a putt to go in the lead. I don't know if Ishikawa had made birdie yet or not. But he missed it.
So I knew I had to make birdies to either pull into a tie or get the lead, and obviously that's what I did. I birdied the last three. So other than that -- NELSON SILVERIO: Can you just kind of take us through your card? You discussed the last three birdies. Can you just take us maybe through the start of your round? Pars.
GEORGE McNEILL: I birdied 3 and 4, which were both really good birdies. Hit 9-iron, probably four feet on 3 and probably two feet on 4. Those were really good shots. Then I hit a really bad tee shot on 5 -- or I'm sorry, on 6, the par 5. I forget which hole is which. Anyhow, I hit it actually in the water, but the ball was up, so I could play it out of the water, and I ended up making bogey. Missed a short putt, but ended up making bogey.
Then I made bogey on 6 as well. Not really leaving a great taste in my mouth. So I walked off of those two holes, made a great par save on 7, birdied 8, and parred 9 to make the turn at 1-under.
Parred 10, bogeyed 11, hit really not a very good shot off the tee and a really even worse shot out of the bunker and just made bogey. So that's what happens.
But then basically kind of settled down and just made a few pars coming in and then birdied the last three.
NELSON SILVERIO: Questions?
Q. (Inaudible) Gulf Coast Tampa ties, Lamely, Kraft, Bradley. Do you have any relationship with those guys?
GEORGE McNEILL: I got a relationship with all those guys. I was born in Naples, Florida. I live in Fort Myers, Florida, so I'm a Southwest Florida native. Michael Bradley is a Southwest Florida native. Krafty is from Tampa area. Derek actually bought my old house. So I know all those guys, yeah. Very, very well.
Q. Do you speak Spanish??
GEORGE McNEILL: And I don't speak Spanish. I understand very little of that. No, I don't speak Spanish.
Q. The house in Fort Myers??
GEORGE McNEILL: Yes.
Q. Would you say this course is very similar to the kind of courses in Florida, the grass??
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, this is stuff I play on all the time at home. The Paspalum and Bermuda grass, that's native. I mean we're in the tropics. That's what grows.
GEORGE McNEILL: Probably when I made birdie on 17. When I birdied 16, I wasn't aware that I was in a tie for the lead then with Ryo Ishikawa. Then I hit it close on 17, and as I'm walking up the green there was a scoreboard right behind the green and I noticed that he was at 14-under, and so was I at the time, and I knew I had to birdie 17 -- or 18 to pull ahead. Then I made a birdie on 17 and birdie on 18 to pull ahead by two.
Q. What's it like you guys playing the final group, large group a couple of groups ahead of you. Did you feel almost forgotten or left behind??
GEORGE McNEILL: No. It was the same yesterday. He was playing right in front of us and he's the same way. I mean he's a draw. Who wouldn't want to follow him? He's 20 years old. And the kid's good, no doubt. So I mean he's the next up-and-coming star, and so I mean if I were a golf fan, which I am, but I'm out here playing and trying to win and trying to beat him. But there's a lot of fans and a lot of people that have heard of him and would want to follow him. It didn't surprise me. But we picked up a few on the Back 9.
Q. Is this your first time here in Puerto Rico??
GEORGE McNEILL: Second time here. I was here last year. I finished tied fifth last year.
Q. Compared to the last time that you were here, maybe since you are from Florida, can you compare the conditions since last time and this year? Is there any difference or any details that you consider this time a little bit more of an advantage?
GEORGE McNEILL: No. I mean I played last year. It was my first time, and this year the golf course is in very similar shape. It's perfect. It's in great shape. Greens are great; fairways are perfect. Everything's -- it was nice.
So I didn't really -- I just made more putts this year, I guess. I shot -- I don't even know what I shot last year, 12-under, 10-under, something like that. So it was pretty close to that, almost the same, but I just happened to make a few more.
Q. The final two birdies were how long??
GEORGE McNEILL: On 16, probably 25 feet. On 17 was about eight feet, eight or ten feet, and then on 18 was about three and a half, four feet.
Q. What did you hit into 16??
GEORGE McNEILL: 16, I hit 9-iron and it went actually just past the pin and I made a downhill putt. On 17 I hit 5-wood off the tee and I hit sand wedge to about eight or ten feet. And then on 18, driver and a 4-iron to the back edge of the green and two shots from there.
Q. You played well last year here and had a good year after. Do you think playing well helped your season??
GEORGE McNEILL: Oh, sure. Yeah. Coming down here and playing well -- I mean you want to play well everywhere you go, but yeah, it kind of jump-started my year.
So I was -- last year I wasn't getting a whole lot of starts. I think this might have been my third start last year. This year I think it's my seventh start, I believe, sixth or seventh. So it's not like I played a lot of golf up to this point.
But last year it was a big jump for me to get in here, because I wasn't guaranteed the following week, which is Tampa. I top 10'ed to get into Tampa for next week, and then I played okay there and made the cut and everything, but it helped. It helped the confidence and helped kind of boost me throughout the year and had a few other good finishes.
Q. Your plans for the rest of the year??
GEORGE McNEILL: To win 12 more times. (Laughs). No, just to keep playing. There are some tournaments that I really like, which I'm looking forward to going back to. I think this will get me into the PGA now, guarantee. So that's a guaranteed major. That's great. I'm looking forward to that.
But just to continue to try and play consistent golf which is basically what I've been doing a little more of this year and last year, a little more consistent golf.
Q. What were your feelings on the last three holes when you made birdie, birdie, birdie??
GEORGE McNEILL: I was really nervous, but I knew I had to. I knew what I had to do, and basically I just had to bear down and get it done. If not, then somebody else was going to win. I was trying to basically have control of myself, and that's all I was looking for.
Q. Can you go through your background in the area of Fort Myers??
GEORGE McNEILL: I was born in Naples, Florida, and grew up and moved to Fort Myers when I was I think five or six years old. But grew up in Southwest Florida. I still live there in Fort Myers. It's home. It's where I live.
Q. And were you a club pro before you got on TOUR??
GEORGE McNEILL: For about eight months, yeah. In between playing the Nationwide Tour and getting on PGA TOUR, there was about an eight-month stretch in there where I gave up competitive golf and went to work in a golf pro shop, and I realized that I really don't want to do that, and that kind of drove me back to playing competitive golf again.
Q. What club was that??
GEORGE McNEILL: I worked two different clubs in Southwest Florida, one Bonita Springs, which is called Shadow Wood and another in Fort Myers called The Forest.
Q. Your favorite golf course??
GEORGE McNEILL: Trump International. And then second would be the TPC Las Vegas. That's where my two wins are.
Q. Had you worked your way into contention, did you think to have dinner with Bradley or Patrick (indiscernible)?(indiscernible)?
GEORGE McNEILL: No. Matthew is not here this week, I think he's still injured, and McIlroy I didn't really see. I saw him on Thursday night, I think. We were just talking. His caddie is a real good friend of mine as well, Noah. We just golf, and nah, it's golf. It's right in front of you.