Winning isn't everything for Howell III
January 09, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Charles Howell III comments before Sony Open
HONOLULU, Hawaii – Just under a decade ago Charles Howell III came to a conclusion not always felt by elite athletes … winning isn’t everything.
Having already won twice on the PGA TOUR, Howell III had been bitter about not closing the deal more often. It was bothering him like it would most players.
But then he became a father and a sense of reality set in. Does winning define me? Does winning define the person I am or ultimately how successful one is?
Of course winning is sensational. Of course we look at Tiger Woods’ 80 PGA TOUR wins in awe. But there’s something to be said for consistent performance also.
And there is a lot to be said for being a kind and caring person and a doting dad and husband.
Howell did not want golf to ever become miserable. He didn’t want his golf game to dictate his moods.
The ruthless would say this attitude contributed to a win drought for Howell III that spanned nearly 12 years.
But when he claimed The RSM Classic late last year for his third career win, first in 333 starts, no one begrudged his moment.
“I realized you can still have a fantastic career and not win all the time. I don't mean that as defeatist, because it's not. It's just the reality of it,” Howell III said of his epiphany.
“I think having kids you realize you just can't do that. It's like, No, I'm going to go do the best I can do and that's going to be what it is and I'm going to go home. Work on it in practice, but this is going to be it.
“Honestly, that may not sound like the right thing to say, but it is the reality and makes this a lot easier.”
It was an attitude that has helped Howell III earn over $37 million in on-course earnings in his PGA TOUR career – ranked 20th of all time.
It wasn’t like he wasn’t trying to win … it just didn’t always fall his way.
“The line between first and second is a big line,” Howell III added.
“I think Tiger coming along made winning look a lot easier than it really is.
“You always really push yourself along to try to get better and improve, and that's a great thing to do but at the end of the day you have to stop and realize, okay, hang on, it's really hard to win.
“If I'm able to keep staying in the mix and having a nice career, eventually the win will happen.”
If Howell III is right about the latter line perhaps he should be the red-hot favorite for this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
Since his first trip to Waialae Country Club in 2002 Howell has made 17 straight cuts in the event.
The Augusta native has nine top-10s including two runner ups and two thirds.
Clearly it is a course that suits his game and could see him lift his position in the FedExCup up from his already lofty fourth position.
“I do love it here. Funny thing is I really can't give a reason why I've had those finishes here, but I do like the golf course,” he explains.
“It's quite a bit different than a lot we play. This is a nice change from the norm. It's old-style.”
These days a lot of the courses on TOUR seemingly suit those who hit the ball a long way. At an average 292 yards in driving distance so far this season Howell III is not classed as a bomber by any means.
He has seen a shift from his early days on TOUR towards younger and more athletic players.
But it drives him.
“When I first started on TOUR the best players were the older players. Now I've gotten older it's shifted the other way and the best players seem to be the younger players,” he said.
“It makes me keep working hard. I know that. It makes me keep trying to find new and creative ways to get better, new ways to push myself along.”
Howell III has never really been under threat of losing his TOUR card since he began what has now spanned 530 starts. His worst finish in the FedExCup was 97th in 2008.
He’s cashed over one million dollars a season since his first full season in 2001.
His latest win means he’s exempt through the 2020-21 season which will see him push towards an incredible 600 TOUR starts but he won’t take it for granted.
“There isn't a good player that has come out of college that doesn't hit it 300 yards and doesn't putt good,” he says.
“So if that isn't motivation enough to practice then I don't know what is. They'll take your job from you like that. If you look around, a lot of them keep doing that
“If I want to still be sitting here in a few years I need to kick my butt in gear and keep working and practicing.”
Charles Howell III on PGA TOUR quality before Sony Open