Howell continues surge toward Masters at Honda

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Charles Howell III is seeing commercials begin to appear promoting The Masters in six weeks.

“The ads are already running on ESPN in almost a cruel way,” Howell cracked.

Cruel if you haven’t yet won a spot in this year’s Masters.

That’s part of Howell’s quest in a run of outstanding play this season. If Howell is going to make another return to his hometown Masters, he needs to crack the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after the Shell Houston Open’s completion on March 31.

Howell is 64th in this week’s world rankings. He started the year No. 119, and he’s been climbing hard with strong play. He tied for third in his 2013 debut at the Sony Open, finished second in his next start at the Humana Challenge and after that tied for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open. Howell knocked off Tiger Woods in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last week.

And now Howell is off to a strong start at the Honda Classic. With a 3-under-par 67 Thursday, Howell moved onto the leaderboard, three shots off the lead.

Howell’s quest will be aided if he gains a berth in next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. Howell is eighth on the FedEx Cup points list. He needs to stay among the top 10 come Sunday night to get into Doral next week, or crack the top 50 in Monday’s world rankings.

It’s a straight forward challenge for Howell.

“I know if I want to play in the Masters, I've got to play really good golf coming ahead,” Howell said. “Getting in next week would be a nice step to that, but it will still take a lot of good golf.”

Howell, who grew up in Augusta, Ga., is looking to play in his ninth Masters. He’s dealing with the pressure this quest gets.

“Once we start playing, I forget about it,” Howell said. “The golf courses in Florida are so tough, it almost forces you, a bit, to worry more about the task at hand than something else.”