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McNeill rides hot putter to opening 67 at Honda

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Not much has gone right for George McNeill this season, and the veteran will tell you as much.

McNeill has yet to make a single dollar on the course, as five starts led to five missed cuts.

Things bottomed out with another early exit last month at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he ballooned to an 84 on the treacherous South Course at Torrey Pines.

“I had been playing so bad, golf was not really very exciting for me,” McNeill said.

Despite listing Riviera Country Club among his favorite venues, McNeill opted to skip last week’s Northern Trust Open for an extra week of prep at home. Well-rested and back on some more friendly terrain, the Florida native rode a hot putter to an opening 67 and a share of the early lead at the Honda Classic.

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McNeill needed only 23 putts to complete his round amid blustery conditions at PGA National, holing seven putts of 10 feet or more while carding six birdies.

“I haven’t made a putt in two years, so it kind of felt good to see them go in, and consistently go in. I didn’t expect to make that many,” McNeill said. “It just seemed like when I got on the green, I made it, or if I didn’t it was close to going in.”

A resident of Naples and a graduate of Florida State, McNeill has plenty of experience in the Sunshine State. He also has a strong history at PGA National, having finished T-12 or better three times in the last five years including each of his last two trips to Palm Beach Gardens.

“Being back in Florida, I feel a little more comfortable, back on Bermuda grass and Bermuda greens,” he said. “The stuff out west, I can’t putt out there.”

Despite carding his lowest score since the BMW Championship in September, McNeill knows he has work to do on a layout where crosswinds tend to blow the majority of scores well over par.

“It was a good score and a good finish, and I should be excited about it, but I’m not because I know this course,” he said. “There’s a double bogey on every single hole out here, and it can happen real fast.”