Howell III still has burning desire to add to trophy collection
Defending champion of The RSM Classic is 'a little bit rejuvenated' due to son's love of golf
November 20, 2019
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Charles Howell III with his family after winning The RSM Classic in 2018. (Ben Jared/Getty Images)
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Charles Howell’s childhood memories illustrate how much this game has changed. Working with David Leadbetter allowed Howell to watch the practice sessions of some of the best players from the 1990s. It was a rare treat for a teenager enamored with golf, but there’s little from those experiences that’s still applicable today. The games that got Nick Faldo and Nick Price to the top of the world ranking wouldn’t work today.
“They were hitting 3-irons 200 to 205 yards. They would draw some, they would fade some,” Howell said Wednesday. “It was super impressive. But how the game has changed. … Go watch Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and Brooks hit drivers and watch Jordan Spieth putt and find a way to do that. That's just the reality of it, that's just the facts. If I was a kid growing up, that's what I would learn how to try to do.”
Howell is no longer a kid, but driving distance and putting are the two facets of his game that he’s focused on since winning last year’s RSM Classic. He has been a TOUR player for nearly two decades but still has an enthusiasm for the game, and a desire to add to a trophy collection that is smaller than he expected when he turned pro out of Oklahoma State.
His latest title came 12 months ago, when he held off a 26-year-old Patrick Rodgers in a sudden-death playoff. Rodgers set a TOUR record by shooting 61-62 on the weekend at Sea Island Golf Club.
Howell started the final round with a one-shot lead but was three over par after the first two holes. He didn’t make another bogey the rest of the day. His six birdies included three in a row on Nos. 15-17. Howell made a 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to earn his third PGA TOUR victory.
The victory may have ended a long drought, but it didn’t create complacency. It reinforced how hard it is to win. Few players know that better than Howell. He’s won three times in 558 career starts but has finished second or third another 25 times (16 runners-up, nine third-place finishes).
“That was a good reminder at 40 years old to continue to work at my game and find ways to improve and get better,” Howell said. “As much excitement as it was to win and finally win again, it was also a reminder that if I’m going to stay competitive and keep doing this into my 40s, I have to keep finding ways to get better.”
Charles Howell III wins in playoff at The RSM Classic
He started working with short-game coach Josh Gregory to shore up his play on and around the greens. Howell also changed his workout regimen, finding exercises that he could do on the road instead of saving most of his gym time for the few weeks he’s home. He hasn’t gained distance, but his workouts have kept the effects of Father Time at bay a little longer.
“The way the game is going, I would say more so than ever the driver and the putter have become golf,” Howell said. “There was a time a long time ago where I think you saw guys with iron play, I'm going to try to draw this into this flag, I'm going to try to fade this, a little off‑speed this and that. I think what's replaced maybe a great iron player is a guy that drives it great and putts it great.”
Howell, 40, is still on an unceasing quest for improvement. Few compete as often as he does. He’s averaged 28.3 starts per year since becoming a TOUR member in 2001. This is his seventh start of the new season. He’s 23rd in the FedExCup with two top-10 finishes.
“I still love the game,” Howell said. “I’'ve been a little bit rejuvenated because my son is playing golf and he loves it. So after school and et cetera, we're going to the golf course. He makes me play a bit more, gets me off the driving range hitting range balls, which is sort of my thing. But he makes me play more, chip and putt more. He's getting into playing the U.S. Kids golf stuff, so watching that, watching him go through that is really cool because I remember when I went through that.”