By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- All he needed to do was cover the 83 feet between his ball mark and the cup in two putts rather than three.
If Charles Howell III had been able to make that birdie rather than take three putts for par at the 72nd hole he would have ended a five-year victory drought at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Instead, Howell found himself in a playoff with Brian Gay and David Lingmerth. He matched Gay's birdie on the first extra hole but saw his chances all but evaporate when his approach at the second landed in the back greenside bunker.
Howell blasted out to 12 feet and proceeded to miss the putt for par. Gay, though, only had 5 feet for birdie and the win, and he did it in style.
Still, Howell couldn't be too disappointed. He didn't even think he had a chance to win until he hit his second shot at the 18th hole. Not when he went into the final round tied for second and trailing Scott Stallings by five strokes.
"Quite honestly, going into the day, I didn't really think that anybody had a chance apart from Scott," Howell said. "He's won before, he hits it long enough to take advantage of the par 5s. At 22 under, I figured if he shoots 6, 7 under, he's really not catchable.
"So then to have a chance there in regulation, that's where I really would like that one back, that three-putt there. But it happens and once you get a playoff, anything can happen. So here we are."
The runner-up finish was the 14th of Howell's career. It follows a tie for third at the Sony Open in Hawaii, though, so Howell feels like the attention he's put on his short game during the offseason may be paying dividends.
"I'm thrilled with the start of the season," he said. "I would have taken that for a Christmas present wrapped up nicely and had it."
At the same time, Howell knows there is work to be done. He has to figure out a better way to close out a tournament. He needs to make the crucial putt or come up with the clutch shot to get the over the hump.
"I mean, like last week, Russell Henley shooting 24 under, I never saw that out there at all and I finished third," Howell said. "I didn't really ever have a chance to win that tournament. But here, having had a good chance there, if you just two-putt the last hole, yeah, I just need to keep working and keep doing a better job of closing those out."
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- We now have a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after Scott Stallings' bogey at the par-4 16th hole.
Stallings, who started the final round with a five-stroke lead, is deadlocked with David Lingmerth and Brian Gay, who have finished their rounds, and Charles Howell III who is about to tee off on the par-5 18th hole.
Gay, who was on the fringe of the 18th green in two, eventually missed an 8-footer that would have given him sole possession of the lead. He shot 63. Lingmerth birdied the 18th to shoot 62 and get to 25 under.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The Coachella Valley is bathed in sunshine Sunday morning as the leaders of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation get set for the final round on the Palmer Private Course.
Scott Stallings owns a five-stroke advantage over Roberto Castro, Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, John Rollins and Charley Hoffman. Stallings, who did not make a bogey in his first 54 holes, is looking for his third PGA TOUR win in 58 starts.
Four of the five players tied for second are trying to end lengthy victory droughts while Castro is seeking his first win. Howell's last victory came in 2007, Cink and Rollins last won in 2009 and Hoffman is seeking his first since the 2010 FedExCup Playoffs.
The deficit is admittedly daunting. But over the first three rounds, the Palmer Course averaged nearly two-and-a-half strokes under par and the course gave up a 59 to David Duval when he won the tournament in 1999. Stallings and Cink both shot 66s the first time they played the Palmer this week while Howell and Castro had 67s and Rollins shot 70.
Cink, who lives in Atlanta, used today's NFL playoff game between the Falcons and San Francisco 49ers to size up Sunday's competition.
"The Falcons are about a four-and-a-half point underdog, and does that translate into a five-shot deficit?" he said. "I'm probably a 14-point underdog tomorrow with a five-shot deficit. So I think I have a bigger challenge than they do.
"They have Matt Ryan. I don't have another person to be my quarterback tomorrow. I have to be my own quarterback and receiver."
Should the 27-year-old Stallings go on to win, he would become the third player in his 20s to win in the first three TOUR events of 2013. The last time that happened was in 1977 (Jerry Pate/Phoenix Open, Bruce Lietzke/Tucson Open and Tom Watson/Bing Crosby National Pro-Am). Tom Watson also won the fourth week on TOUR in 1977 at the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational.
Stallings would also become the sixth player under the age of 30 with three of more TOUR wins, joining Dustin Johnson (7), Rory McIlroy (6), Anthony Kim (3), Webb Simpson (3) and Keegan Bradley (3). He'd also get a second straight trip to the Masters.
Charles Howell III is in the hunt again at Waialae Country Club. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Ann Miller, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HONOLULU—Charles Howell III might be the most frustrated man in paradise at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii. It is nothing a sweet Sunday finish can’t cure.
Howell has been coming to Waialae Country Club for the PGA TOUR’s first full-field event of the year since 2002. He has won more than $1.85 million here, with six Top 5’s including a pair of seconds.
But he has yet to win here, and it is making him crazy.
“I like it here,” Howell said Thursday, after an opening-round 66 put him right in the thick of Sony things — again. “I don’t know why I can’t win. I wish I could sort of figure that out. But I like it. I’ve always enjoyed coming here since the first time. It’s a nice week. It’s an easy way to start, coming to Hawaii.”
The islands’ laid-back atmosphere gets blown away on the weekend when you are in contention, and Howell is almost always in contention here because of how well he plays on Saturday and Sunday. In 18 weekend rounds, he is 46 under, with even-par 70 his worst score.
A year ago he put himself in position with a Saturday 66, but could not catch eventual champion Johnson Wagner. Howell shot 69 Sunday, with 33 putts.
“I just didn’t putt very well,” Howell said that day. “I didn’t put any pressure on Johnson. But he played fantastic, hit every shot he need and played great.”
Howell was gracious, but clearly looked frustrated that day. He hasn’t won since 2007, and this is one of his favorite weeks. He wants to win anywhere, but especially here.
“I really like this golf tournament,” Howell said. “I would love to win this one. This one is right up there at the top. I’ve come close quite a few times now.
“Any other tournament I’d be encouraged, but here maybe I am a little bit frustrated. Listen, it’s still encouraging, it’s hard to ever say a top-three finish is not. But yeah, I would really like to get this one.”
He is back in position again, hoping his Hawaii heartbreak is finally at an end.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here .
2013 PREVIEW: Charles Howell III will be focused on ending a victory-drought that has stretched to five years in 2013. His scoring average dropped from eighth in 2011 to 44th last year while his greens in regulation dripped more than two percentage points and his rank in strokes-gained putting fell from 30th to 93rd.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: If there's ever a place Howell might be expected to get back into the winner's circle, it's at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He finished second to Johnson Wagner in that tournament last year, posting his sixth top-five finish and second runner-up in 11 starts at Waialae. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: Charles is a better player than what his record would indicate. He has trouble closing out tournaments and I don’t know why. Howell finished second in Hawaii, and then disappeared until the Frys.com Open. He did finish the year strong and maybe that’s a springboard to 2013. Howell is 105th on TOUR in final round scoring average, and that has to improve..-- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: For a veteran that plays as often as he does -- he made 29 starts in 2012 -- you'd think he'd be an automatic buy at $1.284 million in salary games. However, he suffered a 16-event drought without a top 25 that spanned from April into October. He's carved out a living logging top 25s, averaging 11.33 per year since his rookie season of 2001. He had eight this year, but only two were top 10s to set a career low since acquiring fully exempt status. The good news is that he finished strong, but that also inflated his price tag. He's most attractive as a low-risk, predictable investment. CH3 is only 33 and has yet to finish outside the top 70 on the money list. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
||Sony Open in Hawaii|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 20
Rounds played: 98
Top-10 finishes: 2
Money List rank: 67th
Driving distance: 51st
Driving accuracy: 171st
Greens in regulation: 47th
Strokes gained-putting: 93rd
Scoring average: 42nd
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
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By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- This season started out promising enough for Charles Howell III.
Howell tied for second at the Sony Open in Hawaii and looked like his first win in five years might not be far behind. Not so much.
“I played like a dog the rest of the year pretty much,” said Howell, who at one point in the middle of the year missed nine of 14 cuts.
That changed a few weeks ago, though. Howell tied for 11th at the Frys.com Open and followed with a tie for seventh at The McGladrey Classic.
“I went into the Fall Series to try to get some confidence going to prepare in the off season to play better for next year,” Howell said.
He seems to have found some.
Friday, Howell shot a 67 to get to 9 under halfway through the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Through the first two rounds here, Howell has hit 29 of 36 fairways.
“It was a struggle this year,” Howell admitted. “I've played a little bit better than I thought I would the last few weeks, but I'm getting some confidence back, which is always good. And I'm much more positive going into my off-season practice than I was if I had ended just right after the FedExCup.”