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Augusta native Howell III opens with 66 at Shell

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HUMBLE, Texas – Every year around this time, Charles Howell III endures a similar line of questioning.

A native of Augusta, Ga., Howell has become the poster child for the Masters bubble in recent years, more often ending up on the outside looking in than the other way around. While his career includes more than $28 million in on-course earnings, Howell’s last win came in 2007 and he has made only one start at Augusta National since 2008.

But all that could change with a win this week at the Shell Houston Open, and Howell took a big step toward that goal with a 6-under 66 in the opening round.

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“Well, obviously growing up there, yes, it’s the one tournament I want to be in more than any. It’s a big deal,” Howell said. “But with that said, it’s a big deal for everybody. Currently I’m not even qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt. I’ve got some work ahead of me.”

Howell made it around the Golf Club of Houston without a bogey, carding six birdies, including four across Nos. 12-17 to close out his round. The round continues a strong run for the veteran, who had a pair of top-25 finishes in his last three starts and is still looking for more consistent results.

“I haven’t put four rounds together this year,” he said. “I’ve had a few good ones and some average ones. I’d still like to put four together.”

Howell trails Scott Piercy by three shots and plans to remain aggressive as he chases an elusive invite back to his hometown tournament.

“Obviously this week is sort of nothing to lose for me to try to get into next week,” he said. “I’m quite happy with how things are.”