Maverick McNealy shoots 65 after advice from his LPGA girlfriend Danielle Kang
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Written by Mike McAllister @PGATOUR_MikeMc
HOUSTON – LPGA pro Danielle Kang had some choice words for her boyfriend, PGA TOUR rookie Maverick McNealy, after he shot a third-round 73 on Saturday at the Houston Open.
Or as McNealy described it, “Got a talking-to yesterday on the phone.”
But Kang – who has two wins and 30 top 10s in her LPGA career and recently played in her second Solheim Cup for the U.S. – also provided some advice for McNealy to use during Sunday’s final round at the Golf Club of Houston.
The message was received loud and clear. McNealy went out Sunday and shot a 7-under 65 that included a stretch of five consecutive birdies. In his fifth tournament this season, he closed at 8 under for the week and finished T17.
Related: Final leaderboard
Evidently, Danielle knows what she’s talking about.
“My best round on TOUR,” McNealy said. “I can build on this.”
So what exactly did Kang tell McNealy, who started the week nicely with a 68 before sliding down the leaderboard with middle rounds of 74 and 73?
“She wanted me to do three things today,” said McNealy, who then provided the specifics.
1. Don’t look at the leaderboards. “So I intentionally did not look at a single leaderboard today,” McNealy said, a difficult task on the back nine given his big move that at one point had him inside the top 10.
2. Be stronger and stricter with the mental scorecards. “I did that with my 95% of my shots today,” McNealy said. “I only had two shots that I wasn’t fully focused or in the zone or committed on, so I was really happy with that. If I can keep it to two or less, it’s going to be a good day.”
3. Say two good things to himself after every shot. “So it was a very positive day out there for me,” McNealy said.
Consider his best shot of the round, a tee shot at the par-3 165-yard 16th. McNealy arrived on the tee with plenty of momentum, having reeled off four consecutive birdies. But the 16th had not been kind to him, as he bogeyed it the previous two rounds, including the second round when he found the right-side bunker.
Plus, with a bit of wind in his face, he was between clubs. He knew 9-iron wasn’t enough, so he needed to hit a soft-cut 8-iron. “It’s just a shot I’ve been struggling with,” McNealy said. “I hit some poor shots there earlier this week and it was an awkward number.”
But with his positive vibes, he pulled off the shot Sunday, following it by converting the birdie putt from just outside 10 feet to make it five straight birdies.
The two positive things he told himself after the tee shot? “That I really committed to starting it left and hitting a hold-off cut,” McNealy said, “and that I hit it flush in the center of the face.”
Kang wasn’t the only one who’s giving advice to McNealy, who earned TOUR membership via the Korn Ferry Tour last season.
McNealy is working with Kang’s coach, Butch Harmon, who is being honored by the Houston Open this week. For the last two weeks, they’ve been working on flighting the short irons. On Sunday, Harmon and McNealy were both sporting huge smiles outside the scorer’s trailer.
“That was the most important part of my game this week,” McNealy said. “Really, really happy with how we stuck with it. He’s really helped me build up my confidence.”
But now it’s time for McNealy to rest. He’s played tournaments in 17 of the last 21 weeks, and he’s tired. He’ll take the next two weeks off, then play the new Bermuda Championship and the fall-ending The RSM Classic. His number is not good enough to get into the Mayakoba Golf Classic, but he’d definitely accept a sponsor exemption.
Still, he’s excited for the future, as his results have improved in each of his five weeks this season. “I’m really excited about the way I’m trending,” he said.