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December 9, 2009

George McNeill

Jeff Sluman


MARK WILLIAMS: Jeff Sluman, thanks for joining us here at the Media Center The Shark Shootout. You've been a regular here for many, many years and a dual champion with Hank Kuehne in the past, defending twice, defending as well. So probably --
JEFF SLUMAN: You're up on your Shark Shootout stats.
MARK WILLIAMS: I think there are only two teams that have done that, you and somebody else. Anyway, got a new partner this week, George McNeill, who's not with us at the moment, but just talk about what you're looking forward to with George and what happened on the course today, anything unusual.
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, I'm going to have a great time with George. I know that. He's from this area. He hits it a long way and he putts it great. Just the kind of partner I love to have. And we're both FSU guys, and I know we're going to have a lot of fun.
MARK WILLIAMS: Good. Obviously being here many times, you've got some experience around the golf course. What do you have to do specifically well to win this event?
JEFF SLUMAN: I mean you have to stay away from making that one, you know, big hole. And that can usually happen in the alternate shot. So typically I'll drive first, and George obviously is a longer hitter than myself, so if I can keep the ball in play, you know, kind of gives him a free wheel at it and go from there.
Obviously any individual event, team event, whatever, you've gotta make putts. There's no secret to that, and the greens are perfect out there. I've been coming here for -- every year, I believe, to this venue, and so it's as good as I've seen the golf course.
MARK WILLIAMS: Well, good. Questions, fellows?

Q. You and Nick led last year first round. Sort of different kinds of pairing than what you had with Hank and what you have with George. You guys are both known for your precision, not as much your length. Is there any different advantage either way to one or the other? Any kind of chemistry you have, just sort of on the course? Are you better off being the mutual accuracy guys?
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, I believe if you look at how Nick and I played, we didn't get it done in the best-ball format. That's where we took it a little on the chin. We just didn't make enough putts. We played well enough, but we just really didn't get it done.
I would say if Nick was my partner, we'd like three days of the modified alternate shot. It would be a good format for our type of play, but you know, we ham-and-egged it. I thought we played very well on Sunday, but we were just too far behind, and Kenny and Scott just played terrific golf last year. And once Kenny Perry seems to get that momentum, he's a birdie-making machine.

Q. Strategically are you better off then with a guy more like Hank and George, being the length, more like Hank was?
JEFF SLUMAN: Yeah. I think in this format, opposite type of -- or different type of games really make the players -- it kind of just makes the week for the players.
Fred Funk and I played very, very well together, but I mean our games are identical. We hit it within five yards of each other, depending on the soft bounce or hard bounce, and we're both precision players also, so it's kind of one of those things that you just really want to get two different types of players in there. And George McNeill is the greatest guy in the world.
GEORGE MCNEILL: I know what he's been saying about me earlier.
JEFF SLUMAN: We were just talking about the different types of games that kind of really makes the week here, in my history. Fred Funk and I played, Nick played together with me. Very similar type of games, but when I played with guys that are longer hitters, I hit first -- he's hearing this for the first time. I hit first. I'll get it in play and you swing for the fences.
GEORGE MCNEILL: That works for me. I've been known to move it every once in a while.

Q. George, how much will it help you to have somebody like Jeff who's won this event twice and played in this type of format multiple times and kind of knows strategy wise what could work?
GEORGE McNEILL: I don't think it'll help one bit. Actually he's probably going to be asking me for advice.
No, obviously I think it almost goes without saying that I'll probably lean on him a little bit, and he kind of knows how to work each format, and maybe he has a little strategy one way or another with each format.
So like I said, I'm sure he'll be hitting first off the tee a lot and hopefully putting it in good position to let me improve on that position. So I'm sure we'll have some fun.

Q. Can you see a benefit for the contrasting styles?
GEORGE McNEILL: Yeah, I'm sure he probably talked about this earlier, there's definitely some bonuses and advantages to having that much of a contrast.
When you have two guys that have the exact same game, it's kind of like, well, you almost expect or know what they're going to do, but if you got some guys or somebody that hits it a little longer or whatever -- who did you win it, Hank Kuehne?
GEORGE McNEILL: He hits it four miles. It makes for a little more fun, and hopefully if I can hit a good drive out there, he'll be hitting some wedges and stuff. He's a pretty good wedge player, so gives us an advantage.
JEFF SLUMAN: For me particularly the length is a huge advantage in the scramble format. So you know, that's where you can really shoot a really low number out there, and I'm just on the edge of getting ahold of my par-5s, and George hits it out there 20, 30 yards by me, then we're easy up on the 5s. That's where you can make up a lot of shots.

Q. How well do you know his game? You guys haven't overlapped a lot really on TOUR?
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, I know he's an unbelievable player, lost two playoffs in the last month, and he putts it great, too, which is -- you can't do any good, like I said earlier, without both guys being able to putt well.

Q. Jeff, you got a guy on your team who a lot of people are going to be pulling for and you'll have probably a pretty nice group of people following you. How nice is that --
JEFF SLUMAN: How many tickets did you get this week? Let's talk about that.
JEFF SLUMAN: Hundred. It'll be great, having the crowd out there and pulling for you. I had that a little bit a couple of years ago at Oak Hill for the Senior PGA. Seemed like the whole town of Rochester was out following me. And that can really energize you, especially make some birdies, when everybody gets going, it's an amazing thing internally what that'll do for you.

Q. Jeff, obviously, you know, George lives here in town, but you've accepted the invitation 10 years in a row now. Actually this is your 11th year. What is it about Southwest Florida that you like and particularly Tiburon Golf Course and this tournament?
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, my dad lives here, first of all, in Naples. So it's a great opportunity for me to spend a lot of time with my dad.
No. 2, I love to play golf, love this type of format that we don't traditionally ever see where you play with a buddy and just having fun. And it's just really relaxed down here. And you know, if you play well, you're very happy about it, but if things don't go great during the week, you've still had a great time with a buddy. And you know, at the end of the day you've had a wonderful time, and then you see the impact that this tournament has on children's cancer. And that's really the big thing.

Q. George, how keen are you going to be to get a win after a couple of close calls and playing really well lately?
GEORGE McNEILL: Obviously I want it to happen, and sooner rather than later, but you can't -- and Jeff can probably back me up. You can't force those things. It just happens.
You can put yourself in position, and hopefully the more I put myself in position, I'll have more opportunities and maybe I can get out a victory here and there. But I'm not really going to put any pressure on -- I think after I won my first year as a rookie, I put a little pressure on myself to win again real soon, and it obviously hasn't happened.
And once I started relaxing a little bit and just playing golf, I feel like my game's come around to where I can do that hopefully more often and put myself in position to win.
At the beginning of every week all you ask for is a chance, and if I have a chance, I feel pretty good about myself.
JEFF SLUMAN: I went on a nine-year drought without a win, so I understand putting the heat on yourself. This has gotta to be the week, this has gotta be -- I'm playing really good. It's the worst thing in the world you can do. You just gotta let it happen, and it will happen.

Q. Jeff, can you talk a little bit more about that? Do you have any empathy maybe for what George is going through? This is a golf-mad community, and we really haven't had a regular TOUR member in a long time until George came along. With what you said the positives of being at home and getting that -- every time George comes, we're calling him and bugging him. Can you kind of look at that, do you sort of have any empathy for what he goes through down here?
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, I don't know about that. Yeah, you want the community behind you. You want the press and everybody calling you because you've done something on the golf course, either won or come close or that. So that's what we strive for, you know, and it's a good balance.
I mean you don't want to particularly talk about, you know, shooting 74 every day, you know, but you're not calling us if we shot 74 either. So it's a good thing to get calls from the press.

Q. Jeff, another question, you won at Pebble Beach, the Walmart this year, and also last year, any thoughts on the U. S. Open there next year perhaps being in it or going?
JEFF SLUMAN: Actually I will try to qualify for the coming up U.S. Open. Certainly Pebble Beach is a different golf course with minimal rough in September than it will be in late June of 2010. But I've had some success there, and you know, finished second in the Open in '92 there, but I'll try and qualify, put my entry in.
And I don't know if George has got qualifier's exempt, but I'm sure that I'll see a lot of old friends trying to do it, and if I get in, fine, if I don't, it doesn't bother me too much either.

Q. Jeff, what was your awareness of George when he was at Florida State? Like when did you kind of know that there was a decent player coming along or coming out of there?
GEORGE McNEILL: I don't think Jeff was aware of himself at Florida State.
JEFF SLUMAN: (Laughs). Yeah, I had problems finding my way to class.
But actually, I truthfully didn't follow the golf program that much when George was there. I've been following it, you know, pretty closely since Trey Jones has been there, and he's done a nice job, but I knew about George, and then really kind of met him when he first came out on TOUR.

Q. And vice versa, didn't Jeff have some kind of reputation?
GEORGE McNEILL: I mean you always look at when I was there in the mid 90s, there's plaques and there's stuff hanging around and then there's pictures and everything. You know, not only of Jeff, but Hubert Green and Kenny Knox and Nolan Henke and Brian Kamm.
GEORGE McNEILL: Azinger. There's a number of people that have played at Florida State that are now on TOUR or have been on TOUR. So obviously -- I forget. It wasn't too long -- did you finish '81 or 2, Florida State?
GEORGE McNEILL: And in the late 80s won the PGA. So obviously his name's been thrown around at FSU. So that's -- I didn't know him. I hadn't ever met him before, but I was, obviously I looked at that and I look at all the guys' names, and that's what I wanted to do. And I said, well, hopefully some day I'll get to meet him, and now we get to play together in an event like this.
JEFF SLUMAN: Same with me. Really at the time we had Hubert Green, we had some guys from Upstate New York, Danny Lyons and John Calabria, same with us in 1980. Is Hubert ever going to come back, are we going to see him and stuff like that. That's what happens when you start building a good program, and we're doing that now at FSU.

Q. George, how do you anticipate handling the crowd part of it? Is it a different kind of pressure to do well because you have people, you know, having a stake or really following you?
GEORGE McNEILL: I don't think there's any extra pressure, no. I'll try not to put any extra pressure on myself. That's all I can do.
But no, like Jeff said earlier, we're out there having a good time, have some fun, hopefully play well. At the end of the day if we don't play well or if we do play well, whatever. The event raises money for a good cause. Like I said, we're just out there having a good time.
JEFF SLUMAN: I'm going to keep him loose. That's the other thing, every psychologist will tell you, the more fun you have, the better you're going to play.
GEORGE McNEILL: And the better you play, the more fun you have.
JEFF SLUMAN: And that's a listen I've learned all these years here. In times I get out when it's just myself and you get really caught up in what you're doing and you're grinding and you're at the end of the round and you gotta go hit balls and this and that, and you come to a more relaxed event and you got a partner and you never miss a shot, and you're saying why can't I do that when it's just me.
JEFF SLUMAN: So it was a good learning curve for me.
MARK WILLIAMS: We appreciate you coming in, gentlemen. Thanks for your time, and good luck this week.
GEORGE McNEILL: Thank you.

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