DETROIT – With soft greens and calm conditions, many of the biggest hitters in the game were expected to carve up Detroit Golf Club during the opening round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Think Bubba Watson, or perhaps Rickie Fowler.
Instead, it was Charles Howell III who authored the blueprint for how to bend the longest holes to his will.
Howell has never been confused with a bomber, ranking 44th this season in driving distance. But he put on a show Thursday across a quartet of par 5s, carding two eagles and two birdies en route to a 7-under 65 that left him two shots off the early lead.
“It’s the best I’ve ever played four par-5s in a round of golf in, I think ever, including at home,” Howell said. “I’m not expecting that to happen again, but it was nice to get it today.”
Howell started on the back nine and hit a 245-yard approach to 11 feet on No. 14 to set up his first eagle. His second came at No. 7, where he hit it from 219 yards to inside 5 feet. He added tap-in birdies on Nos. 4 and 17 and was the low man in a featured group that made plenty of birdies, playing alongside Fowler (68) and Kevin Kisner (66).
Howell ended a lengthy victory drought with his win at the RSM Classic in the fall, and this marks the first of four straight starts ending with The Open. But he stayed home last week, as the longtime Tour veteran hit a milestone birthday.
“Yeah, 40, I can’t believe it,” Howell said. “I feel 100, but yeah, I’m 40.”