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July 29 2011

7:15 PM

Howell continues strong play

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Charles Howell III shot a 68 Friday at The Old White TPC.

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.

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