Happy to be Home Howell Looking for More

By Associated PressApril 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Charles Howell III once had a Christmas tradition like no other.
He always spends the holidays at home with his parents in Augusta, and for the last five years, once he received his official invitation to the Masters, he would play a practice round at Augusta National.
But not this year.
Charles Howell III
Charles Howell shows his disappointment in last year's Masters debacle. (WireImage)
'I wasn't in the tournament,' Howell said Monday. 'And I'm not a member.'
His last memory of the Masters had been that 84 he shot in the second round. After opening with an 80, that put him in last place, one shot worse than 68-year-old Charles Coody. Worse yet, there was no guarantee when Howell might return.
He had his worst year on the PGA TOUR -- two runner-up finishes, but only 52nd on the money list -- and tumbled to No. 82 in the world. The top 50 get into the Masters, so he had only three months to move up 32 spots.
Howell did that, and much more.
After finishing second to Paul Goydos in the Sony Open and to Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines, he was headed for another runner-up finish at Riviera until Phil Mickelson made bogey on the 72nd hole, and Howell beat him on the third playoff hole.
'I needed to win a tournament to feel as I do now,' Howell said.
The feeling is one of confidence, even as he comes home for his sixth appearance in a major that hasn't shown him much love. Howell is No. 15 in the world ranking, and considered one of the favorites to challenge Woods and Mickelson's recent reign at the Masters.
There is a different look this year to the 27-year-old Howell.
A week after beating Mickelson at the Nissan Open, he overwhelmed Sergio Garcia in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship in an intriguing match of youth. It wasn't so much the variety of shots that drew attention to Howell, it was seriousness in which he went about his business that day.
'He's got an edge to him this year,' caddie Jimmie Johnson said.
Now it's a matter of taking that attitude and his game to an Augusta National course where Howell has never broken 70 in competition and has never finished in the top 10.
Then again, he has never felt more equipped.
Howell played his first practice round Wednesday with Kevin Smeltz, an instructor from David Leadbetter's stable of swing coaches. He played nine holes Sunday, nine more Monday on a warm, breezy day that continued to add firmness to the course.
There's no need to overdo it.
'I'm one of the lucky few that can say I've played here a lot,' Howell said. 'I know the golf course. And at the end of the day, it just boils down to do you hit the shots and do you make the putts.'
Mickelson, the defending champion, stayed off campus on Monday and Woods played early before spending time on the putting greens. Everyone would like to see the Masters firm and fast, which it hasn't been since the course started growing the last five years with length that now stretches it to 7,445 yards.
For some, it's still a beast.
Scott Verplank was at his locker Monday afternoon when Paul Goydos walked by and asked him what club he hit into ...
Verplank didn't give him a chance to say which hole.
'A wood,' he said.
Power has never been a problem for Howell, rather the shotmaking and putting. He still defends his decision to rely so much on mechanical training aids and videos, although he concedes he has chased the perfect swing for too long.
Success in the spring comes from hours he spent last fall on his putting, rarely working without a coach at his swing to make sure he didn't fall into any bad habits. And he tried to develop more shots.
'I wanted to have a perfect-looking golf swing, and I wanted to have the mechanics and technical aspects of it perfect,' Howell said. 'And I think I sort of got bogged down a little it, as opposed to, 'Let's work on our golf swing and make it better, but let's also find a way to score and win this game.'
'Because at the end of the day, the lowest score wins, not the prettiest golf swing,' he said. 'I think it's taken me a long time to grow up and learn those things.'
The next trick will be controlling his level of expectations.
The Masters means more to Howell than any other major simple because he grew up a 10-minute drive from the club and was inspired to take golf seriously after attending his first tournament in 1987.
'Some guy from Augusta won that year,' he said with a laugh.
That was Larry Mize and his improbable chip from 70 feet that dropped for birdie on No. 11, the second playoff hole, allowing him to beat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.
'That was a big part of my growing up, to see a guy from Augusta that won the Masters right here in my backyard,' Howell said. 'I don't think I knew how difficult then this tournament was to win. But I do now.'
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''