Howell, Oklahoma State Rule
Ride 'em, Cowboys
Four years ago, when he was a skinny high school junior playing
in the third round of the U.S. Amateur, Charles Howell came up
against the best 20-year-old golfer in the country. Howell lost
to Tiger Woods 3 and 1 that day, but he learned a valuable
lesson: "I learned that it takes a lot to be the best and that I
had to do something to set myself apart if I wanted to be the
Last week, at the NCAA Championships in Opelika, Ala., Howell,
now a junior at Oklahoma State, set himself apart in spectacular
fashion. He not only won the individual title--and in the process
led the Cowboys to the team championship--but also obliterated the
scoring record by six strokes.
Howell's feats were spread around Grand National's Lake Course
like a legend. Did you hear that Howell drove the 277-yard, par-4
16th? Did you see the two-iron Howell hit from 260 yards to 10
feet at number 7? In the end, Howell's 23-under-par 265 gave him
an eight-shot win over Houston's Chris Morris.
Howell's most important strokes, though, were his final two in
regulation, when he got up and down for par to force a playoff
against Georgia Tech for the team title. (The Cowboys' and the
Yellow Jackets' scores of 36-under 1,116 also broke the NCAA
record of 34 under set by UNLV in '98.) Oklahoma State won it on
the first extra hole, playing the hole in one under while Tech
was one over, making Howell the first individual champ since
Mickelson in '90 to also be on the winning team. "The performance
that he put on here for four days was surreal," said coach Mike
Holder, whose teams have won eight national championships during
his 27-year career at the school.
Howell's personality belies his aggressiveness on the course. His
father is a doctor and his mother is a nurse in Augusta, and he
is as polite as kids come--all yes, sirs, and no, sirs. He doesn't
smoke or drink, but he does wear braces and attends church every
Sunday. He is a terror, though, once he tees it up. If one shot
last week characterizes the way the 5'10", 155-pound Howell
plays, it came at the 16th hole during last Friday's round.
Holding a one-shot lead over Texas sophomore David Gossett,
Howell tried to drive the green. Many players had gone for the
green during the first two rounds, when the wind was helping, but
on Friday when the hole was playing into the fan, no one else
tried the 272-yard carry over Saugahatchee Lake. Howell's ball
sailed 275 yards and wound up five feet from the flag. The others
in Howell's group--Gossett, the reigning U.S. Amateur champ, and
Georgia Tech's Matt Kuchar, who won that title in '97--didn't have
the Stratas to go for it and laid up. After Howell sank the eagle
putt and then birdied 17 and parred 18 to conclude a round of 63,
his lead was never again threatened. Gossett tied for third and
Kuchar, playing in his final college tournament, finished 20th.
Unlike Gossett, who is expected to turn pro after next month's
British Open, Howell will return to school to complete his
business degree and attempt to become the first repeat NCAA
champion since Mickelson (1989-90). As Howell told the starter on
the 1st hole before the final round, "You get me for one more
year." --Gene Menez
New Course Compromise
Pebble Project Back on Track
It looks as if Pebble Beach may finally get another championship
course. The Pebble Beach Company first applied for building
permits in 1992, but regulatory delays and fierce opposition from
environmentalists have stalled the project. A breakthrough was
made in recent weeks with the help of Clint Eastwood, who last
July became a managing partner of the Pebble Beach Company for
the $820 million deal. The company agreed to a compromise in
which it would drop plans to sell 316 residential lots around the
course in exchange for permission to add a total of 125 rooms to
the Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay.
At a meeting scheduled for June 6 of the Monterey County Board of
Supervisors, the Pebble Beach Company was to ask that an
initiative on the new proposal be included on November's ballot,
the first step in a lengthy regulatory process. Key local
politicians indicated that if the public supports the project,
they will as well.
The proposed course, already designed by Tom Fazio, would begin
at the equestrian center adjacent to Pebble's driving range. The
holes would meander through dense stands of Monterey pines in the
direction of Spyglass Hill Golf Course before plunging toward the
Pacific, offering sweeping vistas of the ocean. The course would
play to a par of 70 at about 6,900 yards.
The big loser could be Poppy Hills, a pedestrian layout and one
of three courses used for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
since 1991. As to whether the proposed course, which could be
open for play in 2003, would bump Poppy from the tournament, one
Pebble Beach Company executive says, "That's a no-brainer."
If any player can break 280 (four under), he will win the U.S.
Open now that the USGA has had second thoughts about cutting the
rough at Pebble Beach down to a relatively short three inches.
Pebble's greens promise to be the firmest in Open history, and
holding those tiny surfaces will be a challenge from the fairway.
From the rough? Forgetaboutit.
What do these players have in common?
They share the U.S. Open scoring record of 63.
Which player is most apt to win his first major at Pebble Beach:
David Duval, Phil Mickelson or Colin Montgomerie?
--Based on 5,189 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Is the Tour right or wrong to appeal the Casey
Martin decision to the Supreme Court? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for HITTING BEHIND THE BALL
Chili dip, chowder, chubby, drop kick, fat city, husky, ladle,
large curd, Porky Oliver, scuff, sludge, stick it in the ground,
Drive for show and putt for dough? Not on the PGA Tour. Here's
how the Tour leaders in putting and total driving rank on the
1. Tiger Woods 1
2. David Duval 9
3. Robert Allenby 14
4. Hal Sutton 2
1. Rick Fehr 96
2. Jim Carter 22
3. Ernie Els 8
4. Mark O'Meara 91
Kevin Na, Diamond Bar, Calif.
Kevin, 16, won the Scott Robertson Memorial, a junior
invitational, at Roanoke (Va.) Country Club. Kevin shot a
four-under 209 to beat Hunter Mahan, the reigning U.S. Junior
champ, by two. Eight days later Kevin tied for second at the
AJGA Thunderbird Invitational in Scottsdale, Ariz., five shots
behind the winner, Chan Song Wongluekiet.
Fred Rowland, Leawood, Kans.
Rowland, 61, an insurance executive, won his second Kansas
Senior Amateur by one with a six-over 148. The '95 Kansas Senior
champ, Rowland has qualified at least once for every USGA event
for which he has been eligible, except the U.S. Open. He has
played in five Senior Amateurs, two Senior Opens, a Mid-Amateur,
an Amateur and a Junior Amateur.
Becky Robertson, Roswell, N.Mex.
Robertson, 48, led Goddard High to its fourth consecutive AAA
girls' title and the Rockets' 10th state championship in her 12
seasons as coach. She is the mother of two golf pros: Jo Jo, 24,
the 1995 and '97 U.S. Women's Public Links champ and an
assistant at Spring River Golf Course in Roswell; and Greg, 25,
who plays on the Canadian tour.
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