How­ell aims for tenth-time lucky

The Racing Paper - - Golf - ■ by Mitchell Platts

CHARLES How­ell III must have been flum­moxed and frus­trated when Cameron Champ won on only his sec­ond start as a pro­fes­sional on the PGA Tour.

But that could pro­voke a ti­tle-chas­ing re­sponse in the Mayakoba Golf Clas­sic start­ing in Mex­ico on Thurs­day.

Champ, 23, had the his­to­ri­ans reach­ing for their record books as he av­er­aged drives of 334 yards and birdied five of the last six holes to power to a lifechang­ing four shot win in the San­der­son Farms Cham­pi­onship last week.

Mean­while 39-year-old How­ell is pre­par­ing to teeup for his 528th PGA Tour event in a near-20 year pro­fes­sional ca­reer dur­ing which time he has won only two PGA Tour ti­tles.

How­ell knows all about win­ning early on be­cause he did that in his sec­ond full sea­son by claim­ing the Mich­e­lob Cham­pi­onship, but he is the first to ad­mit that his ca­reer has been one of con­sis­tency rather than cel­e­bra­tions.

“If you had told me af­ter I won in 2002 that 16 years later I’d have only two wins I’d have laughed at you and told you that you were crazy,” said How­ell.

“But I would also have said you were crazy if you told me I’d play as con­sis­tently well as I have for this long. I didn’t see my­self as that type of player.”

In truth nei­ther did his peers be­cause How­ell pos­sesses such a silky swing and ter­rific tem­per­a­ment that he was lauded as a true cham­pion of the fu­ture – just as Champ is be­ing now – and be­ing paired through­out the 2003 Pres­i­dents Cup with Tiger Woods em­pha­sised his at­tributes.

Nev­er­the­less, he has only one other win to his credit – the 2007 Nis­san Open when he beat Phil Mick­el­son in a play-off – although he has won more than $35m so he has kept the bank man­ager on his side.

That stems from mak­ing an in­cred­i­ble 409 half­way cuts from those 528 ap­pear­ances with 89 top tens in­clud­ing 16 run­ners-up fin­ishes – he has lost four play-offs with the lat­est be­ing in the 2017 Quicken Loans Na­tional – and he is one of only ten play­ers to have made it through to all 12 FedExCup play-offs.

What is par­tic­u­larly mad­den­ing for How­ell is that he has only one top ten from 45 Ma­jor Cham­pi­onship ap­pear­ances and for a man born in Au­gusta, Georgia it is dis­ap­point­ing that he has no top tens in eight Mas­ters and that he has not played there since 2012.

As he av­er­ages drives of around 300 yards he is never go­ing to com­pete with Champ, who may find it more dif­fi­cult to con­tend this week, but his game is tai­lor-made for the 7039 yards (par 71) Greg Nor­man-de­signed El Ca­ma­leon course in the Riviera Maya.

This will be How­ell’s tenth straight as­sault on the course, which bends through man­grove jun­gles, lime­stone canals and spec­tac­u­lar ocean-front stretches, and he has fin­ished in the top 20 seven times. In­deed, he has only shot over par three times in 34 rounds for which he is 84 un­der par.

More­over, he has un­der­lined by fin­ish­ing sev­enth in 2016 and fourth last year his pen­chant for the course and af­ter fin­ish­ing 40th in the FedExCup last sea­son he be­gan the new term with a tie for fifth in the CIMB Clas­sic which sug­gest he is in good spir­its with his game.

It will not be easy for How­ell be­cause the strength of the field demon­strates the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of this event with Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Zach John­son Kevin Kis­ner, Matt Kuchar, Jor­dan Spi­eth and Gary Wood­land among those tee­ing-up,

Finau, sev­enth in 2014, and Fowler, run­ner-up to Pat­ton Kizzire on his de­but twelve months ago, are ob­vi­ous threats while Spi­eth’s de­ci­sion to chal­lenge for the first time is in­trigu­ing and Wood­land, run­ner-up to Pat Perez in 2016, will fancy his chances again.

Ar­gentina’s Emil­iano Grillo, a top ten fin­isher the last two years, is in de­cent form and Kevin Kis­ner, back af­ter a four year ab­sence, will have high hopes of claim­ing a win in an event that in 2007 be­came the first on the PGA Tour to be con­tested out­side of the USA or Canada.

Con­sis­tent: Charles How­ell lll

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