Howell still striving for Masters invitation

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DORAL, Fla. – Since he began the season on a tear, Charles Howell III has been in a math crunch that is all at once exhilarating and confounding.

After beginning the season 117th in the Official World Golf Ranking, he finished T-3 (Sony Open), runner-up (Humana Challenge) and T-9 (Farmers Insurance Open) to vault into the top 64 and earn a spot in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

More importantly to the Augusta, Ga., native, the quick start made a return trip to this year’s Masters a real possibility if he can crack the top 50 in the world through the Shell Houston Open on March 31. Just don’t expect him to explain how he’s gotten to where he is (66th in the world) or how he’s going to get into the top 50.

“I don’t know that Aristotle could figure out the world ranking system,” Howell smiled. “I am far from that. But I know I need to play. I don’t know exactly what I need to do because it depends on what other guys do.”

For the record, a fifth-place finish or better this week (he’s currently T-13) would likely move him inside the top 50. If that doesn’t happen he still has two more starts, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Shell Houston Open to punch his Masters ticket. It’s part of a torrid run this season that features eight starts already and four consecutive dating back to the Northern Trust Open.

Not that Howell is complaining about the extra work.

“It’s a heck of a lot better than where I have been, so I’ll take this every time,” he said. “When there’s a goal out there, like qualifying for the Masters, it does make it a lot easier because you’re playing for something bigger than this week.”