By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- Which player should the rest of the field fear this weekend at the Sony Open in Hawaii?
Try Charles Howell III.
Having reached the weekend in eight of his 10 starts in this event, Howell has never shot anything less than even-par 70 in his 16 third or fourth rounds. His scoring average in the final two rounds of the Sony Open is 67.4. That's why one reason why he has five top-10 finishes here.
Howell really has no explanation for why he's played so well at the Sony Open, especially once he makes it to Saturday.
"I wish I knew," he said. "I like the golf course. It makes you think an awful lot. Par's a good score on a lot of these holes, especially in the cross winds.
"Anymore than that, I really don't know."
Although Howell said he generally favors courses that are longer and allow him to hit "a bunch of drivers" -- he's hit just four drivers in each of the first two rounds -- he obviously knows how to manage his way around this course. On Friday, he hit just three of 14 fairways, but offset his three bogeys with four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 ninth.
"It's not the first time I've only hit three fairways around here," he said.
Howell's twin 67s leaves him in a great spot heading into Saturday. He's only been in better position here after two rounds one other time -- in 2007, when he was 8 under and eventually finished tied for second.
Two years ago, he shot 66-64 on the weekend to finish tied for fifth.
Howell can't explain his success here, but he does know one thing.
"It might be in my best interest to find out why," he said.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- That wedge he holed for his third and final birdie at No. 18 on Thursday?
"It was a good shot that got lucky," Charles Howell III acknowledged with a grin. "... I probably deserved more of a 3 than a 2 after the tee shot."
The delicate shot elicited a big roar from the crowd when it found the cup and capped a round of 67 for the native Georgian, leaving him three strokes off Keegan Bradley's lead.
"It played about as easy as it could play, not much wind out there, a bit of humidity so the greens were holding," Howell said, adding the putting surfaces might be the best the TOUR has played all year. "I'm not sure how it'll be the rest of the week, but I thought today was definitely a good day to shoot a low number."
Howell said he spent some extra time on the range this week trying to work out some kinks in his game after he shot 3 over at Cog Hill and tied for 42nd on Sunday at the BMW Championship. Given the uncertainty in his game, Howell was particularly pleased with his solid start Thursday to "sort of calm things down a bit."
Howell, who is looking to snap a victory drought of more than four years, faces an uphill battle to win the FedExCup. He needs to win the TOUR Championship and have Webb Simpson finish 21st or worse, Dustin Johnson sixth or worse, Justin Rose and Luke Donald fourth or worse and Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker third or worse.
In short, the FedExCup stars must align. But Howell, who came into the week ranked No. 26, isn't obsessing over the numbers or anything. Not when he knows that just making the TOUR Championship has put the Augusta, Ga., native back in the field for the Masters next year.
"That was a big goal for me this year, so this tournament is in a way just a bit of a reward," Howell said. "I don't have much of a chance to win the FedExCup, although I'd love to, but yeah, I mean, a bit less pressure in that sense. Still, though, I don't know if that makes it easier or harder."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- His bogey-free streak on The Old White TPC ended on his 87th hole in competition.
Not to worry, though. Charles Howell III still finds himself in the hunt at The Greenbrier Classic for the second straight year.
Howell, who has made seven birdies and three bogeys this week, shot his second straight 68 on Friday to move to 4 under. He was three strokes off the lead held by Brendon de Jonge when he finished.
"The changes to course have toughened it up for sure," said Howell, who had 12 birdies and an eagle last year on the way to finishing in a tie for ninth.
"If nothing else, just the firmness in the greens has made it tougher. I don't know if you'll see a 59 this year, although it was exciting to have last year sort of a guy shoot really low. But definitely toughened it up this year."
The Old White TPC has undergone a restoration that included reseeding all 18 greens since Stuart Appleby fired a final-round 59 to win last year. Howell, who is looking to break a four-year victory drought, says the biggest adjustment is knowing when to play conservatively.
"(We) find ourselves playing away from a some of the pins; where before when it was more of a dartboard we played a bit more aggressive to 'em," Howell explained. "But the greens are so young so they're still quite firm. So there are a lot of hole locations out there that need to be getting a little bit of respect.
"The greens are rolling perfect. I don't think anybody putted on 'em for a while, so they're rolling good. You just have to be aware of the some of the corner flags and that the ball is going to bounce through the green a bit. And with the added length we're not quite hitting as many wedge into the holes as we were. So it takes a bit more patience out there, I think."
The steady Howell must be doing something right. He hit 11 of 14 fairways for the second straight day, as well as 12 of 18 greens in regulation. His 28 putts were three less than he used in the first round.
The lanky Georgian, who ranks 24th in the FedExCup, is looking to end a four-year victory drought. Howell came to West Virginia primed, though, with three top-five finishes in his last four starts.
WHITE SUPLHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Seeing Charles Howell III climbing the leaderboard at The Greenbrier Classic shouldn’t be a surprise.
After all, he tied for ninth last year in the inaugural PGA TOUR event at The Old White TPC. Even more recently, Howell has finished fifth or better in three of his last four starts.
The lanky Augusta, Ga., native has quietly made his way to No. 24 in the FedExCup standings, as a result. He stands to gain a lot more if he can continue his strong play at The Greenbrier this week.
Howell started on the back nine Thursday and birdied Nos. 13 and 17 to turn in 3 under. He added two more birdies in his first five holes on the front before making his only bogey of the day at No. 6 when he found a fairway bunker.
Charles Howell III shot a final-round 64 to finish 16 under par, and he currently sits in a tie for fifth.
Howell earned a spot in the British Open last week as the highest non-qualifier at the AT&T National at Aronimink, he shot a final-round 66 to move into a tie for third behind Nick Watney and K.J. Choi, who were already qualified for the event.
"I played there at St. George's in '03, and it's an interesting golf course," Howell said. "I remember a lot of it, and it was my first Open, so it's a place that's special to me, and I'm actually quite looking forward to going back."
Howell also said he was glad he played this week, even though British Open conditions will be vastly different.
"No matter where the event is, I'd rather be playing going into one as opposed to sitting there thinking about it," Howell said.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
A few weeks ago, Charles Howell III became the latest player to switch to a belly putter. The decision seems to be paying dividends.
Howell tied for third in each of his last two starts, and Thursday he opened with a 5-under 66 at TPC Deere Run that included three birdies and an eagle on the par-5 17th.
“Putting's better,” Howell said. “I guess they're not for everybody and whatnot. I never thought I'd use one, but it's helped.”
So did an early tee time in the opening round.
Perfect conditions made for good scoring for Howell and others.
“It was nice to get nine holes of perfect green, not that the greens are bad by any stretch, but no spike marks, no anything,” Howell said. “And then we didn't have very much wind till the end. This golf course does give up some birdies and low scores, but it was awful nice to be out first.”