Howell thinks he needs to ditch the unwritten rules about how to play Augusta National.
Three weeks after he went 80-84 at the Masters to finish last among 91 players, Howell still doesn't have an explanation for what went wrong.
'I don't know what to say about the Masters -- not that I don't want to talk about it, I just don't know what to say,' he said. 'I didn't leave there hanging my head. In a weird way, it might have been the best thing that could have happened to me.'
The problem? Howell said he has held the Masters in such high regard that he followed a script on how to play the golf course, such as not going at the flag on No. 12 when it's to the right, or when to go for the green on the par-5 13th and 15th holes.
'When you grow up in Augusta and you've watched every Masters in person since 1987, there comes a list of rules in the back of your head,' he said. 'You're supposed to have that rule book laid out before you stick a tee in the ground. It becomes a bigger deal that it is. When you've got a nice number and you can see the shot and you're swinging it well ... why not?'
Howell said he has been too uptight at the Masters, in part because he grew up five miles away, and in large part because of the 'unwritten rules' on how to play. His goal next year is to feel more free and treat it like other majors played on courses he has never seen.
And playing two days with good friend Bubba Watson at the Zurich Classic helped.
'I need Bubba's personality -- just let it fly,' Howell said.
ON THE RISE
Making the Ryder Cup is such a priority for Lucas Glover that he won't even refer to it by name.
Glover missed an 8-foot birdie putt on his last hole at the Zurich Classic and had to settle for a 63, clearly disappointed because every shot counts. He didn't have a chance to win, but he wanted to finish as high as possible to earn Ryder Cup points.
'I was trying to get in as low as I could, but I put the steering wheel on,' Glover said of his final round at English Turn, where he was 9 under through 13 holes and finished with five pars. 'I thought I needed that putt for some ... other stuff.'
Go ahead and say it, Lucas: Ryder Cup points.
He tied for seventh, earned 50 points and moved up to No. 9 in the standings.
Of the potential newcomers to this U.S. team, Glover merits plenty of attention. A winner at Disney last year, Glover started 2006 by making bogey on his first four holes at Kapalua. He eventually finished sixth, and while he hasn't won this year, Glover has five top 10s and finished one shot out of a playoff at Torrey Pines.
His worst stretch came in two of the biggest tournaments, when the 26-year-old thought too much about the Ryder Cup and what kind of impression a good week would leave with U.S. captain Tom Lehman. He missed the cut at The Players Championship and the Masters.
'I put a lot of pressure on myself at Augusta and at TPC because of the field, and because that's where Tom is going to look,' Glover said. 'I could have lightened up on myself a little bit preparing and playing.'
ON THE SLIDE
Chris DiMarco started the season No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings, and had high hopes after winning at Abu Dhabi, his first victory of any kind in four years. But a slow start to the year, followed by a rib injury while skiing, has him sliding.
DiMarco went 67-77 to miss the cut in New Orleans, the third time in his last four cuts he has missed the cut. His only top 10 on the PGA Tour this year is an eight-way tie for ninth at the Match Play Championship, where he was beaten in the third round.
He got injured when he fell down wearing a back pack, and either a cell phone or sunglasses case pressed into his ribs. How bad the injury is remains a mystery. DiMarco said at the Masters he was 90-95 percent. But he said last week at New Orleans that he was only about 50 percent healthy at the Masters.
'More than anything, it just kept me out of getting in a rhythm,' he said. 'I'm one of those guys that plays real well when I'm playing each week and I'm making cuts.'
ON THE MEND
Former U.S. Women's Amateur champion Virada Nirapathpongporn finally made it to the LPGA Tour, then spent a month watching what she could from home after a freak eye accident.
She was using an elastic band for a stretching exercise when it came loose and popped her in the eye. There were immediate concerns about a full recovery, but the 24-year-old Thai 'listened to every word my doctors said' and made a fully recovery in two weeks.
'It's probably given me the best perspective, watching TV coverage from the couch and seeing all my friends doing so well,' she said, removing her sunglasses to show eyes that look normal again. 'Seeing how great it really is out there, that really inspired me.'
The former Duke star tied for 12th at the Orlando tournament.
And does she still use the elastic band for her stretching?
'No,' she said. 'My coach asked if I'm back doing my exercises, and I just said, 'Coach, just looking at that thing makes me sick right now. Let me stay off it for a while.' I'll find other ways.'
These girls rock, as long as they don't carry a U.S. passport. Americans have won only one tournament on the LPGA Tour this year, with South Koreans having captured four of the eight tournaments. ... The Masters has given $3.4 million to charity from this year's tournament, bringing to more than $29 million its donations over the last nine years. ... Chris Couch has never played in a major championship, and the winner of the Zurich Classic might have to wait until August. Couch said he forgot to turn in his entry to the U.S. Open. The only way to get to Winged Foot is to win one of his next four tournaments, or play well enough to get into the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list or the top 50 in the world ranking after the Memorial. ... Ai Miyazato said her biggest concern playing the LPGA Tour is watching how much she eats. 'I'm surprised about the size of the food that they serve over here,' said the 5-foot-1 dynamo from Japan.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak all finished in the top 10 last week on the LPGA Tour, the first time that has happened since the season-ending ADT Championship in 2003.
'Of all the things we've done, I think the best thing he's done for me is get me going back to church.' -- Charles Howell III on his new swing coach, Bryan Mogg.
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