McNeill dodges health scare, Beard’s backswing

After dodging a cancer scare last month, George McNeill figured nothing he encountered on the golf course could shake him.

Then again, he never played alongside Amanda Beard.

McNeill, the winner of last year’s PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas, was teamed with Beard, an Olympic swimmer turned model, for Wednesday’s Celebrity Pro-Am portion of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.

Beard, who never will be confused with Natalie Gulbis as a golfer, didn’t notice McNeill was behind her when she took a practice backswing on the first tee. She nearly clobbered him.

McNeill laughed it off. But he was deadly serious as he discussed his recent health scare.

The second-year PGA Tour player had a bulge in his neck last month that his doctor thought might be lymphoma. Instead, tests revealed a bronchial cyst, and it was immediately removed.

"My doctor said we had to treat it right away," said McNeill, who was forced to miss four weeks on tour. "But I’m fine, and I’m here."

• PRO-AM WINNERS — The teams led by Ryan Moore and Tommy Armour III made strong charges over the final four holes to tie for the Celebrity Pro-Am title, each group posting a net score of 20-under-par 52.

Playing with Armour, a former Bishop Gorman High School star who shot 9-under 63, were Bob Courson, Victor Califa and James Meyer. They picked up five shots over the last four holes.

Moore, a former UNLV star who shot 4-under 64, played with amateurs Jim Pettis, Jeff Ellis and Kevin Hooks They made up four shots over the last four holes to pull even.

The Pro-Am was played with an unusual format called "Par Is Your Partner." The amateur’s scores had an additional stroke handicap, meaning the amateurs got one stroke less than what they actually shot after subtracting their handicap. The lowest score on the hole — be it from the PGA Tour pro or one of the amateurs — went on the scorecard.

• DUSTIN JOHNSON OUT — Dustin Johnson was the lone player to withdraw from the 132-man field. He will be replaced by Jason Allred.

That means the remaining alternates, including Clark High School graduate Robert Gamez, are out of luck. Gamez was the ninth alternate.

• WEIR FAVORED — Mike Weir is the 15-1 betting favorite in the tournament, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Stephen Ames, Chad Campbell, Hunter Mahan, Rory Sabbatini and Zach Johnson are all next, each at 20-1. The field is 5-7.

• BACK TO BACK — McNeill faces long odds in his bid to repeat as champion in Las Vegas. Jim Furyk, a three-time winner, is the only player to repeat, having won in 1998 and 1999.

• NEVADA DOUBLE? — Parker McLachlin can sweep both of the PGA Tour’s Nevada tournaments with a victory this weekend.

McLachlin, who won the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open in August, missed the cut last year in his first time playing the Las Vegas event.

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