NORTON, Mass. — Some of the particulars would be enough to make you sweat.
Submandibular and sublingual glands. Three-and-a-half-hour surgery. Delicate area around nerves in the mouth so that paralysis of the tongue is a concern.
That Charles Howell III was told the glands were not cancerous was one level of relief. But he conceded he may have ignored suggestions for surgery if not for all the calming ingredients that resonated. The surgeon, Dr. David Terris, “is one of the best in the world, like the Rory McIlroy of medicine.” Howell’s father, Dr. Charles Howell, had been affiliated with the hospital in Augusta, Ga., for years. And the woman who would be overseeing the IVs? “I had known her since I was born,” Charles Howell III said.
So all in all, the apprehension level for Howell was not very high when he underwent surgery to remove the bothersome glands. A greater challenge, perhaps, came after, because Howell said having seven weeks off was a test of patience that he had never encountered since turning pro in 2000.
“Little stir crazy,” he said.
When he returned for the playoff opener last week at The Barclays, Howell knew he’d be rusty. He had hit balls for perhaps 10 days, “but no matter how much you practice, you can never replicate tournament golf,” he said. “Only tournament golf does that.”
Howell missed the cut at Bethpage Black with rounds of 73-74, but it’s been a different experience at this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. With trips of 71-66-68, Howell start’s Monday’s fourth round in a tie for 11th at 8-under 205. It’s seven off the lead, but it’s an indication that his re-entry into pro golf is on mark.
“I’m surprised at how much better I feel when compared to The Barclays,” Howell said.
Sitting 39th in the FedEx Cup standings when the regular season concluded, Howell dropped to 50th after missing the cut in New York. Projections had him moving back up a few spots, given his 54-hole standing, so Monday will clearly be a big day for him as he chases a spot in the top 30 and a berth into the Tour Championship.
Pressure? To a point, yes.
He can only hope he handles it as well as he did the medical stuff.