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October 31, 2007

George McNeill


STEWART MOORE: George McNeill, thanks for joining us at the Children's Miracle Network Classic. It's been a couple of weeks since you played. You won in Las Vegas. Talk about that. You have a bigger bank account and will be recognized more. I'm sure it's been a good couple of weeks.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, I have a lot more friends, it seems, people at home. I get phone calls from people I haven't heard from or seen in a long, long time. That's part of -- actually that's mostly how it's changed. At home everybody is like, "Great playing" whatever, nothing all that new. They were going, "Well, it's just a matter of time," and I said, "Well, I wish I'd have known that."
Out here, guys are congratulating you, saying good playing, all that.
STEWART MOORE: Top 122 on the Money List. Good week to secure your card for 2008, but maybe talk about the difference that's going to make, and you will be able to make your schedule for the next couple of years, play where you want to play, maybe talk about that.
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, being 122 I was very aware of my position, and I went ahead and dealt with it and won, and now I don't have to worry about it for a couple years anyhow. Being able to make my schedule is going to be nice. This year I played -- this is my 30th event this year. I'm tired, I'm not going to lie to you. Obviously I had to play most of the events I got in, or every event I got in.
It's been hard, especially being a rookie, first time I've seen these golf courses, so you got to get out and play practice rounds, sometimes two. So it will be nice going back to these golf course next year, knowing the town wherever you are, knowing the course, and making my own schedule.
Maybe I didn't like a town or a course, or maybe I missed an event this year, and I will have an opportunity to play in it the next couple of years coming up. So there are a lot of positives -- obviously a positive is always winning, that's always nice, but a lot of things I'm looking forward to for next year.

Q. Are you actually taking this as even keel as you seem to be? Was that first win -- did you feel triumphant? I know you've been knocking on the door during the course of the summer. Are you as steady as it goes --
GEORGE McNEILL: My whole life I've kinda been this way. Fishing and hunting is something -- fishing especially, I get excited about going to do that, and golf is just -- it's something I knew I was pretty good at most of the time. I obviously don't know how good I can be. Hopefully this is a stepping stone to that.
But I've never really -- I take it as it goes. I've never been somebody who has been super optimistic or pessimistic or whatever. I'm just kind of -- it's like it deals with you however it gives you, and I go with it. I don't get -- if something bad happens, that's the way it goes; if something good happens, great.

Q. Is that the key to being able to play well?
GEORGE McNEILL: I think so. You look at guys who are even keel on the golf course, Jim Furyk, obviously Tiger, you see him getting mad and happy at a lot of tournaments with the fist pumping and everything. That's not my personality. I'm not a big, overly zealous guy. I never have been in any sport I've played in, and I played in every sport growing up.
So it makes me feel good personally and inside to win, that's what we're out here to do is win, be the best for at least a day or two, or four days. However it works out, that's just the way it goes.

Q. When you won, a lot of us who do this for a living contacted our local pros or cart drivers, and such. How does it feel to be a hero to that bunch of guys, what you were doing a year ago?
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, I did that for a short time. I went through the apprentice program, I had my books, I was an assistant pro, and I was on that track, but I only did it for six months. Some of these guys, they've been doing it for their whole lives. I played the Nationwide Tour for a year, unsuccessfully, and tried the main TOUR for a year after that, and that's when I took that job and said to myself -- I wanted to step away and -- not quit the game, but step away from the competitive side of it and get recharged and get ready to go again.
I never said I was going to quit golf, and I never did quit golf; I just took a break, per se. That six months -- and I did it through season, and I live in southwest Florida, and season is October through May. That's the time I worked. So it's a mad house down there. There are so many people, the northerners coming down that live there during the winter, and it's packed.
I was four days a week, open to close. I was there at 6 a.m. and I left at 6 p.m. four days a week, so there was a lot of fun, but it's something I definitely do not ever want to do again. That's what drove me back, got my competitive juices flowing again, and I had a little different mind-set when I came back out.

Q. I made that phone call to your old club, and one of your former co-workers said, "He didn't want to answer the telephone again, that's what made him go back out and try it again!"
GEORGE McNEILL: I had more of that than I ever wanted to. And I really respect what every club pro in America does, because for a very short time I was part of that, and to deal with that every day, you have 300- or 400-some bosses every single day, and most of them aren't shy of letting you know that, either.
That's what I couldn't deal with. I'm not very good with authority figures. I want to be my own boss, like we are out here.

Q. Tough to ask a rookie this, but what's been your impression of the fall series? It seems like you were a clear beneficiary of the changes they've had this year. Do you think in the grand scheme of things it's been a good thing, that -- it's separated, but it's given some guys a chance to try the royal flush.
GEORGE McNEILL: Absolutely, you know, I have been a recipient of the good fortunate and of the fall series. You know, there always has been a fall series. In the past however many years the TOUR has been going, there has always been a fall series, it just ended up with The Tour Championship. They just said, we're going to rearrange the schedule a little bit, and the so-called regular season isn't so long, and it allows some of the players who didn't want to play that many events, it gives them time to take a break.
After The Tour Championship now, it's still a regular PGA schedule, and you know there are this many events this year. There is a tournament every single week, and it gives the guys, myself included, the Tour school category, Nationwide category Tour school guys to play this fall.
They had seven events where if they play well, that's an opportunity to play next year. Or like myself, if you win one of these, it's just like winning a regular TOUR event during the FedExCup, except without the FedExCup points, and the Masters. That's Augusta Nationals, and they'll do what they want to do -- they can do whatever they want. I'll take my exemptions and see what I can do over the next couple of years.

Q. What's come together for you as a player over the second half of the year?
GEORGE McNEILL: Everything, really. The beginning of the year obviously I won qualifying school, but first half of the year I had a real good -- a pretty -- I shouldn't say "real good," pretty good start to the year, made seven of my eight cuts, and the one I missed was by one shot, that was the Buick.
I got sick for two and a half months. I had a sinus infection, where I had sinus headaches, couldn't breathe, had dizziness, and that's where I fell into a rut. It was May, June, and part of July. I finally got over all that and started playing better but went through a swing change at the same time. I have two teachers, Kevin Kinney in Tampa and Dr. Jim Sutter, who is in Chicago and Naples, and I've worked with both of those swing coaches for a long time.
My swing changes, and working on my game, and becoming more comfortable out here, getting the routine of the every-day tournament. You know, you go to a different town every week; you don't want to spend the whole day at the golf course, you want to work other stuff into it. Becoming comfortable with my game, knowing what I need to work on, getting out here and doing it and leaving, not sitting around on the chipping green or the putting green or the practice tee and beating balls all day.
Because once you get to a point where you feel comfortable -- if I'm working on something, I'll be here all day. If I feel comfortable, I get loose, feel comfortable and leave. I'm not a big-time ball beater or practicer or whatever. But becoming more comfortable with me, knowing what I need to work on, get it done and get out of here. The second half of the year I knew what I had to do, and that's what I did.

Q. It sounds like you're speaking as someone who would kind of like to be a veteran on the TOUR, you know how to --
GEORGE McNEILL: That's why you're out here, to try to figure out how to play like Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, the guys who have been out here for years. They do what they got to do, and they get out of here. Yeah, I want to be a veteran. I would love to be out here for 15, 20 years, 30 years, until I get tired of it and then go do my next inquiry. I would like to be a veteran, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: George, thank you.

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