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October 13, 2007

George McNeill


JOAN ALEXANDER: George, thanks for joining us for a few minutes in the media center at the Frys.com Open. Kind of a shaky start with the two bogeys early on, but I think you had the low round of the day, 67.
It looks like you're in a good position going into the final round tomorrow. Talk about your day and talk about your start and how you got back on track.
GEORGE McNEILL: Really I don't feel like the couple bogeys -- No. 2 I made bogey, but it was just -- I thought the wind was a little into us and I thought the wind was quartering down. So it was a misclub, but I actually hit the ball right on my line and right where I was looking. I didn't get too upset about making bogey there. It's a tough hole anyway.
But getting the speed of the greens early was kind of hard just because the wind was blowing and you had to realize the wind was playing an effect on whether it was into the wind or downwind with the putts, and then if it was uphill or downhill.
So it was kind of tough to get the speed on the first few holes. After that, after probably four or five holes, I felt like I had the speed fine and, you know, I was still hitting it pretty decent and kind of moved on from there.
JOAN ALEXANDER: Questions, please.

Q. This was the highest number you've shot in three days. Was it your most rewarding considering the conditions?
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, absolutely. Being in the final group, first time I've been all year -- any day. Actually, you know, I take that back. I've been in the final group on Thursday and Friday. (Laughter) So I brought up the rear many times.
But on Saturday or Sunday this is the first time obviously. So playing under those conditions and, you know, dealing with little more pressure. I mean to me pressure is only what you put upon yourself. I was very comfortable. I'm comfortable with the way I'm swinging at it and with the way I'm putting.
Again, tomorrow it'll be the same kind of thing. Just get out there and get used to the speed of the greens and go from there.

Q. George, a strong finish: Four birdies in the last eight holes. How difficult was it to maintain momentum today with all the delays and all the waiting?
GEORGE McNEILL: It was pretty difficult. You know, the guys, Garrett and D.J. both, were constantly commenting on the pace of play. That's just an effect of 83 or 84 players making the cut. It's just the way it goes.
You know, I said to my caddie, Kenny, on the second hole, I said, What else do we have to do today? I said, I'm just going to deal with it and play not and really think about the pace of play. It's slow for everybody. It's not just us.
So it didn't really affect me too much. It was hard to get into the rhythm, but it if it gets in your head early it's going to affect you a little more, so I didn't really let it affect me. And it didn't.

Q. Could you feel that John Daly was right on your heels for a while there? Just a big crowd, and the crowd following the leaders was hardly that. Could you sense that he was right there?
GEORGE McNEILL: A little bit, yeah. They caught up to us a couple times, you know, they would walk up on the tee. But it's not really -- John's always going to have that many people following him. He's obviously a crowd -- a draw.
Actually a few times we'd look back on a downwind hole or something and turn around and see where he hit it. So it was kind of fun. Just have fun with it. Whether it affected me or not, no.

Q. We ran into your friend, Casey, who stayed in town to watch you. Did he actually coach you when you were a junior?
GEORGE McNEILL: No. We just played quite a bit. Where I grew up playing high school golf he was the assistant pro there. We went to the same high school but he was about five years older than I am, so he obviously graduated before I did.
But he was the assistant pro at the club where I played at in high school and then after high school through college, so we played quite a bit. Obviously I've -- he knows my game just almost as well as I do.

Q. Is going to stay in town for one more day?
GEORGE McNEILL: Unfortunately, his newborn and wife say no. He's taking the Red Eye home tonight so he can get back.

Q. You were saying yesterday how you're a relatively easygoing person in terms of demeanor, nothing really kind of gets to you. You're in a situation tomorrow where you've got an unbelievable opportunity. How will you manage your emotions from the time you leave the course to the time you tee it up tomorrow? Once you tee it up you're fine.

Q. I got to figure between now and whatever time you tee it off tomorrow there will be all sorts of stuff going through your body and heart and mind. Talk about how you're going to deal with the mental and emotional stuff.
GEORGE McNEILL: It's just stuff you deal with. I mean, you dream about this kind of moment when you're five years old putting around the house or whatever. Last night I wasn't -- honestly I don't know how many times it passed through my head about playing in the final group today. It was less than three, I guarantee it.
It really doesn't bother me. Actually I'll think about it a little more probably tonight, but I was -- I mean, I was going nuts at tour school when I had a 2-shot lead going into the final round.
But I was more nervous not being on the golf course than I was on the golf course. Once you get out there you get in the moment and get into what you're doing.

Q. You have a 5-shot lead. Does that change the way you want to play the course tomorrow, or are you just going to see how things are with the elements and what have you and adjust from there?
GEORGE McNEILL: I think part of what you said is, yeah, you see how things are. But my approach to playing tomorrow will be the same as it was the first day and today. You know, I mean, I know what kind of shots I need to hit off the tees and where I need to put it on the greens.
You know, I mean, my mentality is to just keep the pedal down. If I can win by 20 I hope I do. If I win by 1 it's still a win. I'm going to do my best to make it the other, try and win by as many as you can. I don't want it to be close.
So I mean, I want to go ahead and stick the knife in and get it going. If I can get off to a great start, more power to it. If not, maybe I'll do something like today. I was kind of puttsing around and then played pretty well on the back 9 and separated myself.

Q. How important is your Canadian Open performance in terms of making you feel like you really belong out here? And what would it mean to a former assistant pro were you to win your maiden title tomorrow?
GEORGE McNEILL: Well, Canadian Open, that was a great -- on the weekend, you know, Saturday I played pretty well. Shot 5-under to get in that position, and then on Sunday I shot 5-under again.
But the last three holes I remember, you know, all the cameras and everything started showing up so I knew I was really close. Obviously Jim Furyk, who happened to win the event, he was playing right behind me. I hadn't even seen a leaderboard so I had no idea what he was doing.
But I was playing with Bob Heintz I remember, and Bob are pretty good friends and we kind of kept each other -- just talking smalltalk. Not even about golf, just going along throughout the day.
I still remember after I holed a bunker shot on 15, for eagle to jump up to -- I don't even know what position I was in at the time.
And then on 16 I missed a 20-footer for birdie.
17 I got it up and down out of a bunker.
18 I made about a 6-footer for par, and it was kind of a downhill left to right slider, kind of bumped the greens, but I made that putt. I really thought about it and I thought, Wow, like doing that. I like putting pressure on myself to see how I'll handle it. Obviously it worked out well.
And with Hunter Mahan unfortunately boosting us up another position, obviously my money position has changed a little bit, too. But I revert back to that. I revert back to the tour school just because those are the only two events that I really had any chance or been around the lead to find out how I'm going to react.

Q. (No microphone.)
GEORGE McNEILL: And I mean, just you know, I'm sure you can imagine it for yourself . Excelling at your job, being the best for just one week or even one day is gratifying, something you work towards you're whole life. Whether you're a CEO of your company -- well, I guess I am the CEO of my company, of myself.
I mean, that's what I work towards. To excel and to come out on top is something that you feel very pleased about.
JOAN ALEXANDER: Let's go through the birdies and bogeys. You told us on 2 you kind of hit it short and misjudged the wind.
GEORGE McNEILL: I hit it long.
JOAN ALEXANDER: Okay, sorry. You chipped up to?
GEORGE McNEILL: I actually didn't hit a very good chip and I had probably 25 feet for par, you know, whatever.
JOAN ALEXANDER: And then the Par 5, No. 3, you made birdie.
GEORGE McNEILL: Driver and a 9-iron to -- hit into the slope. If it carries another three feet it actually skips up to the hole, but it hit right into the slope on the front of the green, the false edge on the right, and 2-putt.
JOAN ALEXANDER: The Par 3 you bogeyed, No. 5.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, missed the green left. Wind was hard right to left and kind of came over it a little bit and missed it left and misjudged the chip and left it short and missed my par putt.
JOAN ALEXANDER: Birdie on 7.
GEORGE McNEILL: Birdie on 7. Hit it left into the trees. Had an opening and hit kind of a high hook sand wedge out of the rough to, you know, ten or twelve feet and made it.
Birdie on 9. Good drive. Laid up to a perfect number. You know, had a perfect wedge in there and then hit it close.
11, Par 4, driver and lob wedge to six or eight feet.
13, driver and a 5-iron to on the green, 2-putt.
JOAN ALEXANDER: Another birdie on the Par 5, 16.
GEORGE McNEILL: Driver and a 6-iron, 2-putt.
JOAN ALEXANDER: And then 18.
GEORGE McNEILL: Driver and then sand wedge to three feet.
JOAN ALEXANDER: All right. Anymore questions?

Q. Going over this card it looks like you really managed your game well with everything, the elements and the waiting. It looked like you were not trying to push too much, and as a result you got rewarded. Talk about that mentality you brought to the course today and how he's it's been a constant for you all week.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, every week you try and do that. It's golf. But this week I'm doing it. It's golf and some days it works out and some days it doesn't. That's why you play your practice rounds and you come out here and you figure out maybe this hole I can push it up or I can't or you lay back or whatever.
That's why I knew, like on 9 I both those guys hit good drives and went for it and hit it in the bunker. But they had 40-yard bunker shots and the sand out here is kind of soft so you can't put any spin on it. I said, I don't want to do that so I'm going to lay back to a good number and it worked out, worked to my advantage.
You know, that's where you go throughout the golf course -- and Nicklaus, he was incredible at the course management, and Tiger obviously is incredible at course management. They don't try and force anything. If they know they got the shot they'll hit it. That's kind of what I'm doing. If I know I can push it up somewhere I'll do it. If not, I'm going to lay back to where I have a good -- you know, where my misses don't kill me.

Q. How much of the pressures of Qualifying School helped you in this rookie season?
GEORGE McNEILL: Quite a bit. Qualifying School for me, honestly, this year -- the final round I was extremely nervous but, again, it's a challenge to yourself and I felt like I handled it pretty well.
But Qualifying School this past year was kind of a breeze. I went out there with an attitude of I'm going to wing it and see what happened. I felt pretty comfortable. I had to go to first stage. I won first stage by 6 shots.
Went to second stage and finished third. Only other time I got to second stage and made it through I squeaked through by 1 shot. Kind of breezed through there and did what I did at the finals. Thinking back on that that's supposedly the most pressure-packed tournament all year. I felt like I handled that pretty well. If can just continue that I think I'll be all right.

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