Late birdies lift George McNeill to win at Puerto Rico Open

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RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — George McNeill birdied the last three holes for 3-under-par 69 to rally past Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa and win the Puerto Rico Open on Sunday.

McNeill  ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS
McNeill

Ishikawa, on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that left his homeland in ruins, closed with 68 and had a one-shot lead. McNeill caught him with a birdie on the 16th, took the lead with a birdie on the 17th and added another birdie on the par-5 18th.

“I was really nervous, but I knew what I had to do, and basically I just had to bear down and get it done,” McNeill said. “If not, then somebody else was going to win. I was trying to basically have control of myself, and that’s all I was looking for.”

McNeill finished at 16-under 272 and earned $630,000 for his second career victory. He won the 2007 Frys.com Open in Las Vegas as a PGA Tour rookie.

“I think I was a little dumb, for lack of a better word, in 2007,” McNeill said. “I really didn’t know any better. I’ve been out here a while now. It’s my sixth year, and I’ve had six second-place finishes and two playoff losses, and seems like, wow, it’s getting harder and harder and harder to win.”

“Winning is tough at anything. Doesn’t matter playing golf, playing tennis, trying to be the best person, smartest person in the class. It’s not easy to be the best even if it’s only for one week, and that’s why it’s tough. And you got to take in golf what you can and move on.”

The 20-year-old Ishikawa, a nine-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, had his best PGA Tour finish.

“I made three birdies in the last four holes, and it was a great experience for me to be very close to the winning experience,” Ishikawa said. “It felt like dreaming sometimes. If I get the next chance, I will grab it for sure.”

NATIONWIDE TOUR: In Santiago, Chile, Paul Haley II won the Chile Classic in his third career Nationwide Tour start, closing with 1-under-par 71 for a three-stroke victory.

The 24-year-old former Georgia Tech player shot 64 on Friday and Saturday to take a six-stroke lead into the final round. He finished at 22-under 266 and earned $108,000 in the inaugural event.

“I expected to come out here and play well, but nobody expects to win in their third professional start,” Haley said. “This is awesome.”

Joseph Bramlett shot 64 to finish second at Prince of Wales Country Club.

NGA TOUR: In Ocala, Fla., Ken Looper shot 4-under-par 68 to win the Golden Hills Ocala Classic by one stroke over Randall Hutchison.

Looper finished at 7-under 281 at Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club. He earned $28,000 for the victory.

Former Augusta State star Major Manning (74) tied for sixth at 286.

LOCAL INTEREST

SCOTT BROWN

North Augusta resident

Score 69-72-65-70

Finished T5

BLAKE ADAMS Swainsboro, Ga.

Score 74-68-68-68

Finished T9

WILL CLAXTON

Swainsboro, Ga.*

Score 69-72-70-70

Finished T20

KEVIN KISNER

Aiken native

Score 68-70-71-74

Finished T25

VAUGHN TAYLOR

Evans resident

Score 70-70-70-75

Finished T42

* former resident


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