Howell Leads Hero at Nissan

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 22, 2003, 5:00 pm
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. ' Charles Howell III has held Nick Price in true reverence ever since the two first met when the former was 10 years old.
'He has had an awesome career, no question about it, a career I wouldn't be too upset if I had,' Howell said.
I have been asked a lot of questions who I look up to and who I want to pattern myself after. And his name is always one of the first names that comes out.'
He can continue to follow in Price's footsteps by doing Sunday what Price has done so well throughout his career.
For the first time as a professional, Howell will sleep on the 54-hole lead. He shot 3-under 68 in the third round of the Nissan Open to take a three-stroke lead, at 11-under-par 202, over his golfing idol.
Price is aware of the difficulty he will have in trying to catch Howell. He cant compete with a kid half his age in terms of distance. But he does have one advantage come Sunday.
Charlie hasnt been there too often, I guess thats the only thing I have got going for me, said Price, who has been on the PGA Tour ' 21 years ' almost as long as Howell has been alive ' 23 years.
Price has been in Howells position 15 times before on the tour, and nine of those times hes turned a 54-hole lead into victory, including on his first occasion in the 1983 World Series of Golf.
Its not an apples to apples basis, Price said when asked to compare his first experience with Howells. I wasnt as good as he is.
He doesnt look to have any chinks in his armor. This guy has got everything.'
Including confidence.
There is no other place I would rather be. The only thing I would rather have is more shots ahead, said Howell, who did well in his holding onto his first-ever 36-hole lead on tour.
One player Howell shouldnt have to worry about is Tiger Woods. Woods hit some of the worst shots on the practice range, and, unfortunately for him, carried it over to the course.
His chance of winning this event for the first time ended with his first official swing in round three. He snap-hooked his drive at the par-4 first over the gallery and into the ABC television compound. He had to play a provisional and made double-bogey-7.
He shot 2-over 73, making five birdies and five bogeys to go along with his second double bogey of the week. He is tied for 28th place at even par, and has all-but given up hope for a second victory in as many weeks.
Even if I shoot 62, Im still only 9-under, he said. I just need to try and play solid tomorrow and get some momentum going into next week.
Tiger continued to drive like a Grand Prix racer, again finding just seven of 14 fairways. He even had to hit his second shot on the par-4 13th left-handed after his tee shot nestled against the base of a tree in the left rough.
Though Woods might not factor into the final outcome, there are a handful of others who could.
K.J. Choi is four back after a 67. Rich Beem (69) and defending champion Len Mattiace (71) are tied for fourth at 6-under.
Last year on Saturday, I shot 64. And I think someone could do that tomorrow, Howell said.
Howell started the day with a one-shot lead over regular practice partner Price, but after two holes the margin was quadrupled.
He two-putted the par-5 first for birdie and made a 12-footer for another at the second. Price, on the other hand, bogeyed No. 2 to fall four back.
'The start is crucial,' Price said. 'I have to get off to a better start tomorrow.'
Howell maintained his four-stroke advantage throughout the front nine. It wasnt narrowed until Choi made birdie at the par-5 11th to get within three.
Then Howell played 11.
He roped a driver 322 yards, and then hit 4-iron from 239 yards inside of 12 feet. He made the putt for eagle to move to 12-under, five clear of Choi and Price.
It wasnt going to be a third-round runaway, however. Howell dropped his first shot in 33 holes at the par-4 12th, and parred his final six holes.
He had a three-foot putt at the par-5 17th for birdie, but pulled it. Price knocked his birdie effort in from the same length and the deficit was trimmed to three heading to Sunday.
I would love to win 20 tournaments on the PGA Tour. Then I have a lifetime exemption on tour, said Price, who has 18 career tour victories. It is difficult at 46, but I still think I can do it.
For the record, Nick Faldo, in 1997, was the last player to win this event after holding the third-round lead.
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