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NISSAN OPEN NOTES

Patience might be worth it

February 18, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

When George McNeill arrived Saturday at Riviera Country Club, a lot more people knew who he was than when he left Friday night.

"Everybody's asking me, saying, 'So you're the one,' " McNeill said. "I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm the reason you couldn't find out your tee times until 7:03 this morning.' "

McNeill, 31, a tour rookie, was facing a 40-foot putt on his final hole of the second round Friday and determined that it was too dark to putt, so he opted to return early Saturday.

He was the only player who didn't finish, but the tour can't make third-round pairings until the entire field has finished the second round.

McNeill two-putted for par, then shot a four-under-par 67 in the third round and is tied for 19th at five under.

He could have four-putted his last hole Friday and still made the cut, but he wasn't only worried about making the cut.

McNeill is a journeyman player who tried PGA Tour qualifying school eight times before finally getting through last fall as the medalist. He played on the Nationwide Tour in 2003 but didn't keep his card, so he played on the Golden Bear Tour in '04. Last year, he worked as a club pro and made $1,834 playing golf, when he got into one Nationwide Tour event.

"That was part of my thought process last night when I had that putt," McNeill said. "I knew pretty much I was going to make the cut, but every shot is so important that you can't just go up and lackadaisically hit one."

Guys like McNeill are well aware of how costly even a three-putt on his final hole Friday would have been. If the tournament ended Saturday, McNeill's position would earn $58,685. If he'd three-putted in the dark and finished a stroke behind, he'd have earned $39,260.

"That's a huge difference, especially for someone in my shoes," he said. "I mean, every week I make the cut, I'm just chipping away at it."

*

McNeill finished his second round just in time for Jeff Quinney.

Another tour rookie, Quinney was tied for 32nd after two rounds and said he figured he'd tee off at around 9 or 9:15 a.m., but he got a call at 7:15 telling him he went off at 8:10.

"I thought I was going to be teeing off a little later than I did," Quinney said. "I was just kind of waking up at 7. That's kind of my rookie mistake."

Quinney is staying with a friend who lives near Riviera, so he was able to make his tee time on short notice.

"If I was staying by the 405, I don't know if I would have made it," he said.

*

Defending champion Rory Sabbatini plays with a Nike ball, but his post-round comments indicate he might have some skill with a crystal ball as well.

When Sabbatini finished, he was at seven under and leader Phil Mickelson was 15 under. Asked what it would take to catch him, Sabbatini said: "Well, the way I look at it is during 72 holes, you're always going to have a bad spell and he hasn't had his yet."

Mickelson then bogeyed two consecutive holes and three in five on the back nine.

*

Anthony Kim looked as if he had dressed in the dark Saturday, playing the third round wearing one black shoe and one white.

"I had to make myself stand out because my golf game wasn't doing it," said Kim, 21, who shot even-par 71 and is tied for 46th at one under.

*

David Toms shot a one-under 70, his 14th consecutive round of par or better. It's the best current streak on tour.

*

peter.yoon@latimes.com

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