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JOHN DEERE CLASSIC


July 13, 2017


Charles Howell, III


Silvis, Illinois

THE MODERATOR: All right, we'll go ahead and get started. Like to welcome Charles Howell, III. Charles, great start. Bogey-free 8-under 63 in round one of the John Deere Classic, making your 11th start here at TPC Deere Run.

Had a lot of success in the past few weeks just getting here. Obviously feeling good. It showed today.

CHARLES HOWELL, III: Yeah, I had nine weeks off prior to the Quicken Loans with a rib injury, and it was my first injury - knock on wood - I've had in my career.

Yeah, I went to Quicken Loans quite honestly not prepared to play well. I had only been hitting balls for four or five days prior to that event. Expectations were extremely low and I played well. I know that's a good lesson for myself and all golfers.

But, yeah, then here this week, this is a tournament that's obviously very special to me. First year here was 2000, and I was able to finish third that year to kind of get my career kickstarted or going.

So the Quad Cities, the golf course, it's one of our favorite events of the year. I missed it last year with a neck surgery, but, I mean, we're excited to be back here this year.

Yeah, then this morning, you know, we were talking. Daniel Berger was six years old when I was here in 2000. I'm definitely on the back side of the curve right now. I need to take better advantage of these opportunities.

THE MODERATOR: With that, we'll take a few questions.

Q. What's worked for you, Charles? What are you excited about after this terrific opening round?
CHARLES HOWELL, III: I realized a couple years ago -- started working with Scott Hamilton on my full swing. Yeah, just realized I'm not going to be the longest or even one of the longest hitters out here anymore.

If I'm going to be competitive and compete in the upcoming years, I've got to be a lot better with my short irons and short game scoring stuff, et cetera.

That part has been better.

I remember at one point in time many moons ago being one of the, say, top few longest ones out here. Now I'm the other side of that where I'm just not with the guys that are coming out.

So, yeah, I've sort changed my mentality a bit, changed my practice a bit, and trying to focus on those areas a lot more than, let's say, I did earlier in my career.

Q. Consistent scoring this year is going to be key. We know what it takes to win this tournament.
CHARLES HOWELL, III: Yeah, I mean, you look this week -- I mean, the last X amount of John Deeres I can remember, this is the best I've ever seen the greens. The speeds are back up on 'em. Granted, this morning without traffic they were rolling like carpet. Today, this morning, was absolutely the best scoring we'll see all week, which would also lead me to believe that tomorrow morning you're going to see some low scores as well.

But, yes, here it's about minimizing bogeys as much as you can and take advantage of the holes that you need to. With that said, there are still plenty of strong holes out here where you'll take a par and run to the next one.

I think this that's what makes this golf course great and I think that's why you'll see some separation in the scoring. The hard holes are still hard and the easy holes you can take advantage of.

But anyone this week that's going to contend to win, you're going to have to putt well for four days.

Q. Speak to the difficulty of being out for nine weeks and how bonkers were you just having to sit and watch?
CHARLES HOWELL, III: Yeah, first off you think when you hurt yourself that it's not going to be that long, and then you realize quickly that it is. With this particular injury, all I could really do was putt, so I spent more time I think putting in those nine weeks than I have in maybe the last five years of my career.

You know, then after that, watching guys compete, watching the coverage on TV, missing events, it drove me nuts. Not nuts in the way of, Man, I could be doing this or whatever. Just missing playing golf.

I realized pretty quickly how thankful I was to be able to play golf for a living. I realized quickly that I am a golfer and that my competitors out here are my friends and it's just what I know. This is what I do.

I think I became more thankful for the opportunity to play golf out here. I think I realized how special it is and how fortunate we all are to do this. Didn't really miss it in the sense of, Oh, man, I want to be winning this tournament or I could be winning this tournament. I just missed playing the game and I just missed competing out here more than anything.

I think that probably fed a little bit to some better play at Quicken Loans, and even today in the sense of where I appreciate being out here maybe more than I had before.

Q. You played so well in 2000. You recall why you didn't come back between '03 to I think '08?
CHARLES HOWELL, III: I skipped all those years? I don't know that I -- that doesn't sound right.

Anyway, I don't recall why, no. There were maybe a couple years I would've skipped because of the British Open. I wanted to go over there early to prepare. Other than that, there was no specific reason, no.

Q. Could you expand on something you said up the hill about playing with Zach and using his experience to help you get around the course?
CHARLES HOWELL, III: Yeah, obviously I was watching Golf Channel and saw Zach's record here is phenomenal, right? So I figured if I could just hang with him today and even try to ride his coattails a little bit, I would be doing all right.

You can tell he loves the golf course. He's comfortable here. You could see that from the very first hole today, that Zach is comfortable here.

So I thought if I could hang with him today and tomorrow I would have a nice chance going into the weekend, because he is going to play well every day. He's just far too good of a player not to.

Q. Charles, you said that this is one of your favorite spots. What in particular makes this a good place for you?
CHARLES HOWELL, III: Well, they were nice enough to give me the exemption in 2000. This was back in the days when Kym Hougham ran the tournament. Obviously now Clair does a fantastic job and they're great about giving them to the young players.

So that, number one.

Number two, I love the golf course. I've always thought of all the golf courses on the TPC rotation, this is one the top three of the entire network. I just think every single hole out here is great. Players speak highly of the golf course. You never here a complaint or anything about it.

Then on the family side, like the Big Dig on Tuesday night, now that we have children that's a big deal. They like that, right? They don't want to miss it. Then the Cole Swindell concert last night. All the things that people maybe don't see that the tournament and the community does for us, you know, it does matter.

It gets families here.

Q. Charles, two things: You talked about the neck and rib injuries.
CHARLES HOWELL, III: Yes.

Q. Was it more difficult coming back from either one of those? Secondly, with the time off with the rib injury, you said that you were spending more time putting. Was that in some ways a blessing to your game to be able to devote that much time to just the putting and the short game?
CHARLES HOWELL, III: Well, I missed -- a year ago I had a mass removed from my neck. I had my I submandibular and sublingual glands removed. That was scary, because you're coming back from -- I mean, going to have a surgery there are certain risks associated with that, et cetera, et cetera.

But I knew there was a definite timeline I would come back. All that had to happen was if I don't die under anesthesia, I'm going to come back. And if I die I won't even know. I am either coming back or not.

With an injury, it's always, When can I come back? When can I start hitting balls? I don't want to reinjure it. So I spoke to almost every player that I could think of that had done this injury along the way. What did you guys learn from this? What have you done, et cetera?

I'm a ball beater and a practicer. I just enjoy doing it. I probably overdid it a little bit which led to this. You try to learn from them because you know they're probably going to happen in the future.

But, yeah, like coming back from surgery, really that was a case of if I don't die I'm going to come back and it's going to be fine. The wound needs to heal.

With an injury you're always like, Oh, my gosh. In the first few shots you hit you think, Man, I am going to blow this thing out again.

Listen, if you look across the history of the game I've been extremely lucky with only this injury so far - knock on wood. And I do realize I'm not 21 anymore. That's sometimes a tough pill to swallow.

Q. Did it help to have all that time devoted to putting?
CHARLES HOWELL, III: It did. I mean, it's really hard to get excited to putt, but when it's the only thing you can do, you find ways to make it exciting and find different short game games to play and whatnot.

I spent three, four hours a day putting. Partly I would drive my wife crazy if I was home and it gave me something to do. But I filled the time with it, and by the end I enjoyed it.

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