NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Charles Howell III needs a passport to pack with his putter.
He’s off to Royal St. George’s and a spot in the British Open because of his third-place finish Sunday in the AT&T National. Howell locked up a spot because he had the highest finish from among the top five of those golfers not already qualified for the British Open.
He shot a 4-under 66 and was part of a three-way tie for third, four strokes back of winner Nick Watney.
Howell knew playing in a major tournament for the first time this season was on the line and tried not to let the pressure take the focus off playing well at Aronimink Golf Club.
“I thought about it. It was in the back of my head,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean anything. It definitely doesn’t help you play better, I know that much.”
Howell clinched a spot not far from his childhood home. His father had his residency at the children’s hospital of Philadelphia and Howell lived in Ardmore until he was 3.
“Obviously, I’m thrilled,” he said. “But the more important thing was today.”
He made his move on a bogey-free front nine, with birdies on the first, sixth and ninth holes.
“I just kept trying to push ahead,” Howell said. “It almost made it a little bit easier to just forget about it on the closing holes.”
Howell was one of three players to post four rounds in the 60s this week and has made the cut in 15 of 19 starts this year.
RICKIE, LOSE THAT NUMBER: Rickie Fowler started the day as the leader at Aronimink and ended it wondering how it all went wrong.
The 22-year-old Fowler, dressed in Sunkist orange, had a miserable Sunday with a 4-over 74 and finished tied for 13th. He remains winless in 47 starts as a pro.
Fowler shared the lead with eventual winner Nick Watney, but was nine shots behind when it was over. His bad day hit fast with a double-bogey on the par-four second hole and he bogeyed the fourth. Fowler could never recover.
“I couldn’t get anything going today,” Fowler said. “I felt like I was hitting some good putts out there, burning the edges, but nothing would fall.”
Fowler said Aronimink was set up tougher on Sunday a day after the course record seemed to fall every other round. Fowler was paired with Watney and runner-up K.J Choi and said he learned from them how to play with a victory within reach on the final day of a tournament.
“It’s great to be in that position,” Fowler said. “It’s good to see what other guys do in the same situation and how they handle themselves.”
HOLE-IN-ONE: Robert Allenby had the shot of the day when he nailed a hole-in-one on the par-3 14th hole.
Allenby, who finished tied for sixth, knew his shot was in from the moment he connected with his 6-iron.
“It was just on-line perfect all the way,” he said. “It landed perfect, just rolled up and then disappeared.” Allenby said it was his 15th ace as a pro and his second one in Pennsylvania. He did it a decade ago when the tour stopped here. He played with J.J. Henry when he sank the hole-in-one then, and they were in the same grouping Sunday.
“He’s a good omen,” Allenby said. “He just said, ‘You’ve done it with me again in the group.’ It’s nice.”
Allenby hit it 194 yards. It was the fourth ace at the AT&T National.
“I guess I’m aiming for it,” he said, laughing. “You’ve got to get a couple.”
He shot a 5-under 65 when the scores came back to Earth after low 60s were the norm for the leaders on Saturday. He was 8-under for the tournament.
“They shouldn’t have softened up the greens the way they did (Saturday), otherwise 8-under probably would have won this tournament,” he said.
TIGER SHOW: Tiger Woods made a cameo appearance at the AT&T National and caused a stir when he stopped to sign some autographs.
Fans rushed the rail as security implored them to move back and stop crushing a row of kids. The crowd eased back and Woods signed autographs for several minutes.
Woods, who sat out with injuries, was all smiles in a purple-and-white striped polo and jeans. When one small fan said, “It’s nice to meet you in person,” Woods looked up with a smile and said thanks.
Woods met the winners of a contest in which fans hunted the course for a winning hidden ticket that also got them a copy of his video game, other prizes, and pictures with him. He took several pictures with the family on the putting green.
He did not talk to reporters except for one TV interview.
CANTLAY CAN’T MISS: Patrick Cantlay, a sophomore-to-be at UCLA, ended his memorable month in the big leagues with a 67 on Sunday to tie for 20th at the AT&T National.
Cantlay, who won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s top Division I golfer, qualified for the U.S. Open, then tied for 21st at Congressional and was low amateur. A week later, he set a course record at the TPC River Highlands with 10-under 60 in the second round, the lowest score ever by an amateur. He ended up in a tie for 24th.
Cantlay became the first amateur since Ricky Barnes in 2003 to make three cuts in one season.
CHIP SHOTS: Adam Scott, who was tied for third, had his third top-10 and first since he was the runner-up at The Masters. … Justin Rose was tied for 15th for the second-best finish ever by a defending AT&T champion. … Coming off consecutive missed cuts, rookie Chris Kirk was tied for eighth.