Howell Surges Into Lead Then Collapses

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U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Only one player can say he got to 4 under par, took a three-stroke lead and made six birdies on the first day of the U.S. Open.
 
And so, only one can say he squandered all that, too.
 
It was David Howell, who shot a painful round of even-par 70 that ended with two bogeys, one double and nine putts over the final four holes Thursday. That was still good enough for a tie for second, a stroke behind Colin Montgomerie, but not nearly good enough to allow him to feel good about his day.
 
Once I calm down a bit, its still level par and its a great round of golf, Howell said after his torture test at Winged Foot. Right now, Im frustrated and Im fed up.
 
David Howell
David Howell seemed destined to lead the U.S. Open until his final four hole stretch.
Who wouldnt be?
 
His fifth and sixth birdies of the day came courtesy of a long putt on 13 and an approach to near tap-in range on 14. Those two gave him a three-shot lead over Montgomerie. Even better'the wind, which had been creating havoc all day, was finally starting to die down.
 
It should have been time to expand the lead, not give it up.
 
Its such a shame to drop shots on the easiest part of the day, Howell said. But if you hit bad shots around here, youre going to get punished, no matter the wind.
 
At the end, Howell hit plenty.
 
There was a 2-iron from the middle of the fairway on 15, one he called one of the easiest shots I had to hit all day, but one he pushed into the rough en route to the first bogey.
 
There was a chip into 16 that didnt sit, but rather bounded onto then over the green, forcing him to make a tough up and down. Another bogey there.
 
There was a drive into the rough on 18, which brought about the obligatory chip back into the fairway. After hitting his third shot onto the green, Howell conceded he wasnt thinking about making the putt and saving par.
 
I had heard horror stories about Trevor (Immelman) and Luke (Donald) putting off the front edge of 18, Howell said. I had that in my mind.
 
That explains why he left the first putt way too short, which set up a miss on the second, which led to a three-putt for double-bogey. Not exactly the way for the one-time runaway leader to close the day.
 
Its the best Ive played in a U.S. Open by a long way, he said, trying to console himself.
 
Not that thats saying much.
 
In fact, his record in all the majors is not befitting of a player ranked ninth in the world and the guy who made the pivotal putt two years ago in Europes rout over the Americans in the Ryder Cup.
 
Trailing Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell by two with two holes to go in their Ryder Cup match, Howell made a birdie on No. 17 to bring the match to even. His teammate, Paul Casey, made par on 18 to give Europe an 8-4 lead heading into the afternoon of the second day. It was, said the European teammates, the turning point of the competition they won going away, 181/2-91/2.
 
The golf world has been waiting for a similar breakthrough from the 30-year-old Brit in a big-time medal-play event ever since. And while he has won on the European Tour, his record in majors is ugly: two top-20s, seven missed cuts and one withdrawal, at last years U.S. Open after tearing an oblique muscle on the range before the second round.
 
Chances are, hell be more careful on the range before this second round.
 
Clearly, though, hell need a good nights sleep and a short memory to bounce back.
 
Im in great shape, he said. Would rather be 3 under but Im not. I hit plenty of good shots, so lets not dwell on the bad ones.
 
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