Notes: Howell's growth; Walker's Ryder Cup lead
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
If you’re thinking it was just yesterday that Charles Howell III was a young kid leaving Oklahoma State to take on the PGA Tour world . . . well, you’ve been stuck in a bit of a time warp. Howell is 34, and though you might close your eyes and see him as that skinny 21-year-old making his pro debut at the 2000 Canon Greater Hartford Open, fact is he’s starting his 15th season.
Hard to believe, eh?
Howell doesn’t disagree, though he certainly can attest to a different frame of mind as he resumes play here in 2014. His 13 consecutive appearances at the Sony Open, for instance? “I’m a bit more mature, not as antsy or anxious,” Howell said.
Maybe the victories (two) haven’t been as plentiful as he might have envisioned, but Howell makes no excuses. He has carved out a pretty steady PGA Tour career, and he has something that matters more than all the birdies and all the money that has come his way.
“Having a family really changes (the frame of mind). I think as you keep playing out here, you realize it’s a long year.”
He keeps a significant schedule (usually 27-30 tournaments) because daughter Ansley, 3, and son Chase, 2, still travel with him and wife Heather. But he envisions just two more years of that.
“After that, I’ll play less because I don’t want to be away," Howell said. "I grew up with two parents right there. Heather had two parents right there. I don’t want my kids to grow up with me on the road.”
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HE LIKES THIS QUINIELA: You’d have to say that Brian Stuard has this Sony Open-to-Humana Challenge back-to-back excursion figured out.
Finishing at 24 under, Stuard was fifth at the Humana, one week after having gone for 12 under and sixth at the Sony. Good stuff, sure, but it’s getting to be a habit with the 31-year-old. Last year he was 16 under and T-5 at Sony, 21 under and T-10 at the Humana.
Add 'em up and that’s four tournaments, four top 10s, 16 rounds, 73 under, and $758,133.
Want to take bets that he’s signed on for these two events in 2014-15?
What Stuard – who was a PGA Tour rookie at 27 in 2010, lost his card, and made it back in 2013 – is hoping for is a different look to 2013-14 than he had in 2013. Last season, Stuard piled up $690,021 in his first eight tournaments, going 60 under for 32 rounds, then he stumbled a bit; during his final 17 tournaments he was 44 over and earned just $342,007.
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AND HE DOES, TOO: Jerry Kelly is another who smiles at this Sony-Humana trip. He finished third at the Sony two weeks ago, then came back with a T-13 at the Humana. The last time Kelly had back-to-back top-15 finishes was 2011, when he was T-9 at the Sony and T-13 at the Humana.
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ROUGH TIMES: But just to assure you that not everyone is rolling along smoothly, Jamie Lovemark continues a rough adjustment to PGA Tour life.
He finished 54 holes at just 6 under and didn’t qualify for the final 18 holes at the Humana. Factor that in and Lovemark has missed the cut in 25 of the 46 PGA Tour tournaments in which he has played.
His lone top 10 remains the playoff loss he suffered at the Frys.com Open in 2009, which was just his 12th start. Since then, Lovemark has gone 34 tournaments without finishing better than 20th.
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LAPPING THE FIELD: To put into perspective how impressive Patrick Reed’s 63-63-63 start was at the Humana Challenge, consider this: Had there been a hybrid 10-shot rule, meaning you had to be within 10 of the lead to play the final 18 holes, only 10 other players would have been teeing it up besides Reed.
The week before at the Sony Open? There was a two-way tie at 199 and the other 69 players who qualified for the final 18 holes were all within 10.
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MAJOR PURSUIT: Jimmy Walker is your leader in Ryder Cup points for Team USA. The remarkable thing is, he’s there without having done a thing in the major championships, where the only points were rewarded in 2013.
Of course, being a late bloomer, Walker, 35, hasn’t had a chance to prove himself in golf’s biggest championships. He’ll make his Masters debut in a few months and has, in fact, made the cut in just two of his six starts in the majors.
How important are the majors? Well, if he were an American, Adam Scott would actually lead Walker in points, based on his Masters win a year ago and strong efforts at the Open Championship (T-3) and PGA Championship (T-5).
Exempt into all four majors for the first time in his career, Walker certainly controls his own fate regarding a Ryder Cup berth.