Charles Howell wins RSM Classic in playoff to end 11-year drought

ST SIMONS ISLAND, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 18: Charles Howell III of the United States poses with his wife Heather and their kids Charles and Ashley after winning the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Golf Club Seaside Course on November 18, 2018 in St. Simons Island, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Charles Howell wins RSM Classic in playoff to end 11-year drought

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Charles Howell wins RSM Classic in playoff to end 11-year drought

Charles Howell III has a reputation as one of the all-around best guys on the PGA Tour. The 39-year-old has also become known as golf’s version of the Buffalo Bills over the past decade, with six-runner up finishes in the 11 years since his last victory.

So when Howell entered the final round of the RSM Classic with a one-shot lead, it was anything but a done deal. And when he made bogey and double bogey on his first two holes, it sure looked like the start of another disappointing Sunday.

“I just said, ‘You’ve done it again,’” Howell said of his 3-over start. “But I was somehow able to turn it around.”

Hours later, Howell’s knees gave way as he watched his birdie putt roll true on the second playoff hole to beat Patrick Rodgers and win for the first time since the 2007 Nissan Open.

Howell shot 19-under 263 for the wire-to-wire victory at Sea Island Resort in St. Simons Island, Ga., where he continued to fight back in the final round and broke down on the 18th green once it was over and the moment sunk in.

“I just haven’t been able to pull it off for so long …” said Howell, briefly unable to continue a post-round interview as he wiped his eyes and tried to find his voice.

He’d squandered a chance to end it in regulation by missing a 22-foot birdie putt at 18 (wide right, ala Scott Norwood), and was matched up against a 26-year-old Rodgers playing historically strong golf.

Rodgers shot 9-under 61 in Round 3 and 8-under 62 Sunday to get in the playoff, recording the lowest closing 36-hole score in PGA Tour history. Rodgers got to 19 under for the week with a birdie at 18 and finished solo second after a pair of pars in the playoff.

Rookie sensation Cameron Champ was one back entering the final round and finished solo sixth for his third top-10 finish in five starts this season. Champ picked up his first win last month at the Sanderson Farms Championship and seems sure to add a bunch of titles in the coming years.

He’d be wise to remember Howell’s emotion on the 18th green Sunday. And Matt Kuchar’s last week in Mexico, where he snapped a four-year winless stretch. And Danny Willet’s this week in Dubai, site of his first win since the 2016 Masters and the often-horrendous results that followed.

Wins are never a given, no matter how young or talented the player. Howell now has three of them in 529 starts. According to his PGA Tour bio, he had five tournament victories before his 11th birthday.

“I’ve talked about it forever. Yeah, I thought I would have won more by now,” Howell said. “No reason to rehash that.”

Howell said that on Saturday night, when asked if he thought he would be stuck at two wins this long. There really wasn’t any reason to rehash it because he still had 18 holes to play, and it never seemed to happen for him in those situations. After the start he had Sunday, it was fair to wonder if he’d ever get to No. 3.

So when he got to the second playoff hole facing a third consecutive birdie putt for the win, he had one thing in mind.

“I’d messed up the first two and you don’t get that many chances out here,” Howell said. “To have that chance, to get that fortune, I just thought, ‘Just don’t leave this one short.’”

This one had the distance. Howell had indeed done it again. Something he hadn’t done in a long, long time. Gwk

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