weather icon Mostly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Las Vegan McNealy keeps closing in on first PGA Tour victory

Updated February 16, 2021 - 2:05 pm

When Maverick McNealy was the top-ranked amateur in the country and a golfer at Stanford, he matched Tiger Woods’ school record with 11 tournament wins.

As Ian Baker Finch pointed out during the final-round broadcast at Pebble Beach on Sunday, McNealy is 82 wins shy of Woods as a pro. But the Las Vegas resident is taking big strides toward that first PGA Tour victory.

McNealy’s second-place finish at Pebble Beach is his best result on the PGA Tour, surpassing his tie for fifth last year at — where else — Pebble Beach.

McNealy’s stellar amateur success hasn’t translated to the professional ranks as quickly as his peers like good friend Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland or Matthew Wolff, who all won immediately after college. But that doesn’t worry McNealy, who still only has made 35 PGA Tour starts.

“I wouldn’t be teeing it up if I didn’t think I could win,” he said Sunday after his close call at Pebble. “I think it’s very, very hard to win on the PGA Tour. There’s so many great players, and the fields are so deep every week, you have to play really exceptional golf to get the job done.”

HIs performance over the weekend moved him to a career-best 126th in the world rankings. It also gave him a big boost in the FedEx Cup standings and an easier path to retaining his playing privileges next season.

At Pebble Beach, McNealy hovered around the leaderboard all week, posting four rounds in the 60s. He saved his best for last, shooting 66 on Sunday, including five birdies on the back nine. He walked off the 72nd green tied for the lead, then watched from the scorer’s tent as Daniel Berger eagled the closing hole for a two-shot win.

“It was fun,” McNealy said. “I had the adrenaline pumping coming down the stretch there and feelings that I hadn’t really felt on the golf course in a little while, trying to close this out and give myself a chance.”

The 25-year-old said he’s getting more confident in his game each week. Sunday’s result will only add to that feeling.

“I’ve always been a guy that has to earn my own confidence,” he said. “I can’t stand there and just tell myself I’m good at something or I’m doing something right. I have to earn it with myself, too.”

He credits famed instructor Butch Harmon for much of his steady improvement. McNealy and his girlfriend, LPGA star Danielle Kang, both work with Harmon in Las Vegas.

“Butch has a knack for helping you believe in yourself, even when you don’t,” McNealy said. “He has a recipe that works, but he just takes what you have and makes it better.”

McNealy will try to ride the momentum this week at Riviera Country Club at the Genesis Invitational, in what is easily the most stacked field of the season. McNealy just hopes his hard work continues to pay dividends.

“I think I just am believing a little more in the process that I have, what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m just constantly dialing in on things I need to do to play well any given week.”

SNGA Four-Ball

Jason Cordon and Daren Johnson teamed up for a 2-under 70 to win the Championship division of the SNGA Four-Ball event Friday at Paiute Golf Resort.

Three teams finished five shots back on a windy day on the Sun Mountain course.

David Koch and Darin Garness won the Senior division with a phenomenal 68, which also earned them the Senior Net title.

Other winners included Andrew Buonincontro and John Sangster (Championship Net), Steven Fink and Douglas Pool (Silver Gross) and Tony Trolio and Vincent Capko (Silver Net).

Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at robertsongt@gmail.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.