Howell puts himself in position again to break through
LA QUINTA, Calif. –- Charles Howell III will start the final round of the Humana Challenge today in what has become a familiar spot early in the season: a chance to win.
Last week in Honolulu, Howell stood four shots off the pace of co-leaders Russell Henley and Scott Langley entering the final round at the Sony Open. After an eagle-3 at the par-5 ninth hole, Howell got as close as one shot. However, on the back nine, while Henley was wrapping up a 7-under 63 score, Howell made one birdie and failed to birdie the 18th, the second-easiest hole on the Waialae Country Country Club course, and tied Langley for third place, seven shots off Henley’s incredible 24-under score.
As Howell was signing autographs in the scoring area Sunday after a final-round 66 at Waialae, he was steaming. It was his seventh top-5 finish in the Sony, but still without a win.
“I was always happy with a third-place finish,” Howell, 33, said a week later. “I'm not going to sit here and tell you otherwise. But you know, the Sony Open, it means a lot to me. I've played well there before, and I'd like to get it done there.”
Howell is aware that 17 under, his score last week, on almost any other year would have gotten the job done. It was his lowest score by four shots, and he didn’t see 24 under out there.
“Part of the frustration was maybe not getting the job done,” Howell said. “But at the same time, a guy shooting 24 under is awfully hard to catch.”
Tied for second place entering today's final round at PGA West's Palmer Course, Howell trails leader Scott Stallings by five strokes.
Howell doesn't have the history of contending in Palm Springs that he has enjoyed on Oahu. In seven appearances in the desert, Howell has only one top 10, a tie for sixth in 2002.
So a third-place finish would look pretty good, considering he is five shots back.
“There's always a few guys on Sunday here that run up the leaderboard and pass the world,” Howell said. “But it'll just have to come from one of the last couple groups to make it work when a guy gets that far ahead.”
Howell will start in the second-to-last group today, with John Rollins and Charley Hoffman, at 10:40 a.m. PST.
Though he hopes to be the guy who shoots a very low number to put pressure on Stallings, Howell is seeing the first two weeks as potential validation of his recent work with instructor Gary Gilchrist.
“I've seen benefits of it so far the last couple weeks,” said Howell, noting the focus on his short game. “But for me it's more or less the commitment to do it throughout the year as opposed to saying, 'Well, that seems a bit better. Let's go do something else.' It's more about the commitment to doing it throughout the entire year and then evaluate from the end of the year looking back and saying, 'OK, did this thinking work or did it not?' ”
Howell has won only twice on the PGA Tour (2002 Michelob Championship and 2007 Nissan Open) since turning pro in 2000 out of Oklahoma State but has earned $24 million.
Critics might view Howell as having overachieved in earnings and underachieved in victories. Perhaps he won't pick up his third Tour victory today. However, his play in the final round of the Humana Challenge ultimately could be a building block in a career that might yet to hit its zenith.