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February 28 2013

3:00 PM

Masters remains on Howell's mind

Howell shot a 3-under 67 Thursday at PGA National. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Once Charles Howell III is inside the ropes, he tries not to think about going back to the Masters.

"The golf courses in Florida are so tough, it almost forces you a bit to worry more the task at hand," he said. "But the ads are already running on ESPN, which is almost cruel in a way, you get the birds chirping and the sunshine, the Masters."

Of course if Howell keeps playing the way he has, the results will take care of the rest.

The Augusta, Ga., native has three top 10s in six starts. Thursday, he shot a 67 to sit near the top of the leaderboard at The Honda Classic.

Howell came into the week 64th in the Official World Golf Ranking -- up two spots after reaching the second round of last week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Howell needs to move inside the top 50 by the end of next month to qualify for the year' first major.

If he can continue his current trend, Howell could also get into next week's World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, which has no cut, guaranteed money and World Ranking points.

Players in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, or the top 10 in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, following this week are eligible for the event at Trump Doral. The top 10 in the FedExCup standings not otherwise qualified also earn spots. Howell is currently eighth in the FedExCup.

"I still know I've got to play good, which takes out a lot of the guesswork and stuff," Howell said. "The guys behind me can knock me out for next week. I know if I want to play in the Masters, I've got to play really good golf coming ahead."

He did that Thursday with five birdies and just two bogeys on an overcast, chilly morning at PGA National, where he also had just 26 putts.

"I like the direction we're going," Howell said of his work with coach Gary Gilchrist. "My short game is starting to get a little bit better. I think my putting has gotten better. It's nice to know that I have a chance to hole it, especially coming into these courses here that are a bit more difficult."

And a chance to return to the Masters.

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