Monday, February 19, 2007

Hot Hand Howell

I don't know about you, but I would have bet the farm the Phil Mickelson would have won the play-off against Charles Howell III at the Nissan Open on Sunday.

More to the point, I would have bet Howell would find a way to lose it.

Once labeled a future can't-miss superstar, has made more than $13 million in career earnings -- but, until Sunday, only one victory, the 2002 Michelob Open at Kingsmill. Along the way, racking up 10 second-place finishes, he has found new ways not to win.

That's that why his showdown with the red-hot Mickelson so impressive. Maybe Howell, at 27, is hitting his stride. In three events this year, he already has a win and two seconds.

Here are a few excerpts from his post-victory interview:

CHARLES HOWELL III: I'm speechless. You know starting out today, I thought I almost shot myself out of it yesterday. Especially with Phil Mickelson ahead, and at Riviera the birdies weren't easy to come by. You know to finally catch him there at the end on 18, man, that par putt, that was the longest par putt I've hit in my life. And just to force him to have to make a par to win the golf tournament. And the playoff, as we all know, I lost in a playoff here before with Mike Weir. And the first thing I asked was what was the rotation because I just wanted us to get past that 10th hole. My reason for that is obviously I lost the last playoff on that hole. But, you know, on top of that, that's such a tough hole and anything can happen on that hole especially with the flag in the back where it is right there. And to get past that hole, I was pretty excited.

Q. What goes through your mind when the last one goes in and it happens?

CHARLES HOWELL III: I wish I could tell you, but I wasn't even thinking. You know, I truly, I don't know. I said a prayer before I hit the putt. You know, I said ‘It's time, let's go in.’

Q. Can you contrast this, a few weeks ago you are at Sony, your head is in your hands, this is 180 degrees, talk about where you were there and how you felt and how you feel now.

CHARLES HOWELL III: Yes, you're right, Sony, Sony was a better one because I had a lead with nine holes to go. I managed to stay ahead of Luke (Donald) the whole back 9, and obviously until 18 we end up tying. But at that time I truly thought Luke was the player to beat there. That was extremely disappointing just not to get that ball up and down on 18, at least not to force a playoff, just to give myself a chance at it. You know, prior to that, talking to you guys here a few years ago, was pretty bitter. So to finally win here, I'm speechless. I'm the luckiest guy in the world right now.

Q. You had seconds coming in this year, two more, does that weigh on you at all? You have been in playoffs, are you thinking ‘I'm not going to win, I keep finishing second.’

CHARLES HOWELL III: No, truthfully the other. If you look at the state of where my golf game was in the middle of last summer I would have cut my arm off for a second place finish. They were looking pretty darn good. No, I kept looking at it as I'm getting closer, I'm getting closer. The second at 84 Lumber, towards the end of last year, was really important for me to get an affirmation I'm starting to get back. I'm starting to get there. And then to start this year off this way, I knew I was close.

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