Jackpot McNeill Wins First in Las Vegas

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
  LAS VEGAS -- Not until the 18th tee did George McNeill finally show just how special a day he'd had, smiling and waving to the camera.
 
Minus fanfare or frills, the 32-year-old rookie won his first career PGA TOUR title in commanding fashion Sunday, shooting a 5-under 67 for a 23-under 264 total and a four-stroke victory over D.J. Trahan in the Frys.com Open.
 
Now McNeill has something in common with Tiger Woods. In 1996, Woods also earned his first PGA Tour victory at this tournament.
 
'Any time you can be mentioned in the same sentence as him it's a good thing,' McNeill said.
 
McNeill did it with his only bogey coming when he three-putted on the 18th green at TPC Summerlin with the crowd cheering and four scantily clad Las Vegas showgirls ready to offer their personal congratulations.
 
His trophy arrived from 5,000 feet above, carried by one of two hangliders who took part in the awards ceremony.
 
Only in Las Vegas.
 
'That whole saying about what (happens in Vegas) stays in Vegas, I hope my game travels,' McNeill said, smiling. 'I felt like I didn't do anything that special. It's nice to kind of buzz around and win by four and not feel like you're doing anything all that great.'
 
McNeill did it with small galleries following him, save for a big group of his Florida buddies who showed up to play on their own starting Monday. He did it by maintaining that same calm demeanor from the start, an even keel personality more resembling a veteran than a first-time winner.
 
McNeill earned the winning share of $720,000 on a beautiful, clear day in the desert after strong wind played a big factor in Saturday in a tournament that featured not one top-20 player in the field.
 
McNeill, who last December won Q-school by five strokes, was coming off rounds of 66, 64 and 67. He began his final round at 18 under and five strokes ahead, matching the largest lead on the tour this year heading into a final round.
 
He secured his TOUR card for the next two years. All that after a discouraging stretch earlier this year when he missed six cuts and withdrew from one event in an eight-tournament span.
 
'I was trying not to think about all that stuff when I was out there playing,' McNeill said. 'I don't get too emotional. I'm having fun with this. It hasn't sunk in. ... In a sense, I know I have a job for the next two years and it takes the pressure off.'
 
After Trahan -- who shot a 66 -- birdied the first four holes and then No. 9 to pull within three strokes, McNeill made a 15-footer for birdie on No. 11 and also birdied 13 and 14. He sunk a 27 1/2 -foot putt on the 156-yard 14th.
 
Robert Garrigus shot a 70 to tie for third with Cameron Beckman (68) at 15 under after Garrigus started the day in the top group and tied with Trahan for second.
 
Las Vegan Bob May, who led after the first day, tied for fifth with a 69 to finish at 14 under -- a nice showing for May considering he has dealt with back injuries for years now and is still on the comeback trail.
 
The 39-year-old May returned to the PGA TOUR last year for the first time since 2003. He played 2006 on a major medical extension after not swinging a club for two-plus years because of his back.
 
After McNeill pulled his tee shot on No. 6 left and about a foot into a rocky and sandy desert area, he consulted a rules official about his options regarding the moveable obstruction.
 
He picked up a small rock just behind his ball, moved away a couple of others as well as a pine cone, then chipped onto the green for a chance at birdie -- and had to be happy just to save par.
 
Trahan, meanwhile, bogeyed after missing his par putt from 5 1/2 feet.
 
McNeill, who spent last year working in a golf shop before rediscovering his desire to compete, made only two birdies on the front nine but played his best golf over the final nine holes. He birdied four of his final eight holes.
 
Tournament chairman Gary Davis announced that Shriners Hospitals for Children is the new title sponsor, signing a five-year commitment to keep the tournament in Las Vegas through 2013. Its name: the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The format will change starting next year from a Pro-Am to an all-pro event for the four days of competition, with a celebrity Pro-Am to take place Wednesday. All rounds will be played on the Summerlin course after groups split between it and nearby TPC The Canyons for the first two days.
 
The Shriners -- who also hope this will bring their hospitals more recognition -- are pledging $6 million to run the event each year, while also seeking other sponsors to help.
 
'The PGA TOUR is her in Las Vegas to stay,' said Davis, determined to find a way to bring in more big names. 'Everybody agreed it needs to stay in Las Vegas. That's the first step toward major sports in Southern Nevada.'
 
The tournament will remain in October for now, but organizers hope to eventually move to the spring. Davis said the purse would stay at $4 million.
 
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

     

     

    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.