October 15, 2007–George McNeill came into the Las Vegas pros neighborhood, and became another PGA Tour player who made the Las Vegas event–this year the FRYS.com Open– their first PGA Tour title. With the addition of Nick Watney, who moved to Las Vegas a few months ago to be closer to his coach Butch Harmon, there were 15 players in the field who either went to UNLV, live here or grew up here. Resident Bob May finished in a tie for fifth to lead the local contingent, but another year passes without a local champion. Another resident, Alex Cejka, finished tied for 30th while former Rebels Bill Lunde (T44), Ryan Moore (T54), Chad Campbell (T74) and Andres Gonzales (T80) all made the cut. Watney finished in a tie for 59th. Click here for complete FRYS.com Open notes. The FRYS.com Open Benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children was played at Las Vegas golf courses TPC Summerlin and TPC Canyons.
The event celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2007 with a new host organization, the Shriners, and new fan initiatives including The Hill, where several hundred fans watched football and golf in a VIP-style setting. Click here for more FRYS.com news from GolfLasVegasNow.com.
In its 25 years, the tournament has been played at many Las Vegas golf courses including TPC Summerlin, TPC Canyons, Bear's Best Las Vegas, Las Vegas National Golf Club, Spanish Trail and Southern Highlands Golf Club, among others.
Official Champion George McNeill press conference transcript (courtesy ASAPsports.com)
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: George, please welcome the Frys.com Open champion George McNeill. Congratulations. First PGA Tour victory in your rookie season on tour. Dream week for you. You certainly made it look easy. I'm sure it wasn't easy. But you won by four strokes over D.J. Trahan. Maybe some comments about a great week for you.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah. I mean, it kind of started off — you know honestly I didn't start off on Thursday that well. I was 1-over for like three or four holes and kind of struggling. Then I got my legs under me and got comfortable in my golf swing and started rolling on from there. Just kind of and ho-hummed it around.
It felt like I didn't do anything that special. So you know, it's nice to kind of buzz around and win by four and not feel like you're doing anything all great.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Winning on the tour will bring a lot of great perks: $720,000, nice big trophy there, invitations to the Mercedes Benz Championship and some other invitationals as well. Most importantly winning gets you a two-year exemption on Tour so you have a job on Tour the next few years. A few comments about that.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah. I was trying not that think about all that while I was outs there playing. Yeah, I actually sent me tour school entry in a couple weeks ago because I had to get it in my October 3rd, I think.
So I mean, I was exempt at the finals, which was nice. I've never had that. But it's to even think about having to go back to tour school and to do this is pretty special. I feel good with everything that went on this week, and hopefully I can continue and hopefully the whole thing about what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, hopefully my game travels. We'll see.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Questions. Pass the mic.
Q. Your back 9s all week seemed to be pretty strong. Take us through the back 9 today.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah. I mean, I played good on the front 9. Couple opportunities that I thought I had for birdies that didn't capitalize, but I got to the back 9 and like I said, I been playing well on the back all week.
I don't know if I need nine holes to get loose or warmed up or what, it just worked out that way. The birdie on 11 I hit it kind of drive left and hit over to the trees to about 15 or 20 feet and then made a putt.
I was kind of — because D.J. was playing very well. 4 birdies in a row to start off the day. I knew I was in the driver's seat the whole day. I don't think he got any closer than three shots at any time.
So I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. Just tried to play my game and see what happened. Making the birdie on 11 and then 12 was a really tough pin so I just played it to the fat part of the green and had a 2-putt.
13 was a Par 5. Hit it in two and 2-putted. Then I made probably a 30-footer or so on 14, the Par 3. You know, I knew something was going to be right for the day as long is I could keep it in front of me the rest of the holes.
Q. At the 18th tee I saw you smile and wave at the cameras. That's the first time we saw any emotions from you all day, maybe the last couple days. Walking to the final green, was that pretty emotional or exciting with all those people?
GEORGE McNEILL: No. It was more exciting. I don't get too emotional I don't think. It's more sx citing. I have — I'm having fun with this right now. Obviously I don't think it's — it hadn't sunk in. I'll be able to step aside here in the next couple days and maybe look back and see actually like Joel mentioned earlier, all the perks that come with being a PGA Tour winner.
Yeah, I was very excited and with Robert and D.J., Robert stopping on the front of the green and sitting there and clap ping and waiting for me and everything, that was a big thing for him to do and I appreciate that. But all the guys are like that out here. It's just a big group of fun people.
Q. You said yesterday that wanted to, if you could, put the pedal to the metal, and if you could win by 20 great, by 1, you're happy with that. You looked like you came out playing strong just like you had the last couple days. Talk about your mindset as you get off to a good start and how much it helped you relax.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, that birdie on 1, because D.J. hit it in there real close on 1, probably three feet. I was first to play out of the fairways, and I felt like I hit a good shot in there about 15 feet or so, and he hit it real close, about three feet.
So I knew he was ready to play. He looked like he was very comfortable with what he was doing. He birdies the first four and I'm going, Okay. And I was 2-under through 4. The whole day I kind of had a mindset that if I shoot 5-under then he's got to shoot 10. There were only two guys that could do that.
So I said if they do that, I'll a applaud that and shake their hand and we'll go on and play some more. I know I was in the driver's seat the whole day and I just didn't want to back off and make any mistakes. Kenny and I, that's all we talked about all day: Err on the fat part of the green short pen. If you make a mistake doesn't make a mistake in a bad spot and avoid making doubles. That kills you.
I didn't my make any bogeys until the last hole, which didn't really matter.
Q. You only had 5 bogeys the entire tournament. Any kind of performance like that you deserve to be in the spot you are, right?
GEORGE McNEILL: Oh, absolutely. Going back to Q School I remember at first stage — I had to go through all three stages. At first stage I went 54 straight holes without making a bogey, so I know it's possible.
You get in the mindset and you get in the comfort zone and you just kind of go with it. That's kind of where, yeah, I made a few mistakes this week, but nothing that would kill you and take you out of the tournament.
Like they say, you can't win a tournament on Thursday but you can sure lose one. That's been my mentality all week.
Q. On 6 when you were in the rocky sandy area and getting out of there and still having a birdie chances and finishing with par there, was that a nice —
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, I kind of hit a pull draw off the tee. I was trying to hit it about 30 or 40 yards right of where I hit it. Just hit a bad shot. Got lucky with where it ended up. I thought it ended up in the bushes. But I was happy where it ended up. I had a couple rocks around my ball, but I can move them no problem.
I actually had a very clean lie. It was actually probably better than being in the rough. It's a lot easier to make contact on the ball, so it wasn't that hard of a shot.
Q. How long have you been married?
GEORGE McNEILL: Coming up on two years in January.
Q. What do you think this will mean for your wife who's been with you thorough all those tough times when you stopped playing and she was there supporting you?
GEORGE McNEILL: I mean, she's always said — and I try and explain golf to her. Golf to her is G-u-l-f. We live on the Gulf Coast of Florida. She's an account and she works for the IRS, a very smart person.
So I don't ask her about accounting and she doesn't ask me about golf. How did you play today? I played good or fine or bad. She's actually at training right now in Cincinnati. I haven't talked to her yet. I'm sure she's watching, though.
Q. (No microphone.)
GEORGE McNEILL: No. No. No. I'll call her obviously and say hi. But we'll have the time during the off season. We'll have a couple months off.
Q. There's big group of your Florida golf friends who are going to play starting tomorrow and a big kickoff party tonight that might end up being a celebration of your first victory.
GEORGE McNEILL: Right, it was actually a tournament that I played in last year. Mike Scully, who is the head pro at Medina, where they had the PGA last year, he's the head pro there and runs the tournament Pro-Am for a bunch of guys, club pros mostly and a bunch of amateurs, members at their club. They come out and play a three-day event every year in October.
And I actually played last year in the tournament and a bunch of the guys, the group that I played with they said, Are you coming back to play this year? I said, Unfortunately I got another job that I have to attend to. I can't make it. But it just happened to be this weekend where they're all showing up, and obviously a lot them showed up today out here.
Yeah, I'm sure there will be some celebratory things going on this evening with all the guys.
Q. (No microphone.)
GEORGE McNEILL: No, I'm actually going to Scottsdale. I'll play next week, all the remaining events as far as I know right now.
Q. (No microphone.)
GEORGE McNEILL: Absolutely. Probably hundred, over 100. I don't know how many guys are out here today, but at least over 100 that play in the event.
Q. This is your first major win. Does it take the pressure off you for the future tournaments?
GEORGE McNEILL: In the sense like playing in more tournaments the rest of this year, I mean, yeah, in the sense that know I have a job for the next two years. That takes the pressure off. But there's a lot of things on the Tour and with my own game that I want to even accomplish.
So obviously everybody wants to win a major. I want to play in the Masters. I played in three U.S. Opens and I made the cut for the first time this year. But I want to play in the Masters and the British and the PGA. All the majors I'd love to play in.
I know what a U.S. Open is like, but I want to see what the others are like. There's a lot of stuff I want to accomplish for me.
Q. You first major win, how does it feel to have something in common with Tiger Woods now?
GEORGE McNEILL: First win? First win in Vegas? Any time you can be mentioned in the same sentence as him I think it's a good thing.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: George, congratulations.