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May 29, 2003

Charles Howell III


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Charles, for joining us for a few moments. Great round and par 64. You must have had a great time out there. It started off slow with a couple of good putts that you missed for birdie, then you had that ball in the water at 6. Why don't you make a couple of comment on your round and we will go into questions.

CHARLES HOWELL III: The conditions today were perfect for good scoring, obviously. There was no wind. There was an advantage playing early. And I got off to a good start. I took last week off. I didn't play great at the Byron Nelson. So I was a little bit nervous this morning. I have been working on a few things with the golf swing and probably the biggest thing of the day that kept me going, I was 1-under par, hit a really good second shot on No. 6, it pitched the bank on line with the flag back in. I had to drop on this side of the hazard and I got it up and down for bogey. That was important for me to keep that going. What can I say? When things start going your way, they go your way.


Q. Your two appearances here, you've played very well, tied for 15th two years ago and somewhere in the 20s, what has it been about this course that you play so well?

CHARLES HOWELL III: It fits me well, I like to hit driver. I like the big fairways, I just like the whole place. The golf course seems to fit me well. It's funny, no matter where you go, some players' eyes are well and some not as well. I played well here a couple of years ago. I got good thoughts about the place. This was an important tournament for me a few years ago because I was playing on conditional status. I had to play well here to earn a certain amount of money to continue to play. So this place has always be important to me. What can I say? It's just like Augusta National.

Q. Talk about No. 17, one of the few birdies you had today on 17, you were one of the few birdies, can you talk about how the hole played?

CHARLES HOWELL III: It's an interesting hole. At first you see the length of it, I believe it's around 480 yards. The first thought to come to mind is hit a driver. And you can't hit a driver there very often, which is a bit odd. Being 260 there to carry the first bunker, and a run out at 300, it is actually a bit of an interesting shot having to fit something into there. They had a really good through and sought a 6-iron to the green. So obviously I think Mr. Nicklaus wanted to have a longer club into that green and he accomplished it. But, yes, I hit a really, really good second shot there with the pin on the right side and made a putt from 15 feet past the hole. I holed it there. I mean it's a totally different hole than last year, obviously. I will tell you the finishing holes, 17 and 18 are really, really tough holes.

Q. Were you trying to make that one on 18?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Oh, yes. With that short of the length, you are going right for the middle.

Q. Can you elaborate on that? Were you trying to get that close?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Well, on 18, I generally can't say this too often, I didn't have a lot of long putts today. I really hadn't had many putts over 15, 20 foot range. Now I had a putt from 45 feet across the green. I was focusing on the speed there. The greens are obviously redone since last year. I think they putted a little bit slower today than they did last year. Yes, I was a very fortunate to get the speed right, which it was perfect enough to drop in. Making it wasn't on the top of my mind. I would have taken a par and left.

Q. What are the aspects of this? You say that it reminds you Augusta National?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Well, you start with the caddy uniforms are the exactly same. The fairways and greens are absolutely perfect. The layout of the golf course with a lot of slopes. The fairways a little bit wider. Just the whole atmosphere. I know there are a lot of people here that are members of Augusta National and they play a lot of golf there and so forth. You know, they know how to run golf tournaments. Every tournament can take a good look at that one and copy it and it would be just fine.

Q. How is this preparing you for The Open?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Well, I have had a few interesting things. I worked really hard at my game and I really haven't felt like I played that well yet. Obviously I played well in LA, but I didn't finish it off and win there. You know, I'm just trying to play to get a bit of confidence going and to watch myself shoot some lower scores. I can stay home all I want to and beat balls, as I did all last week and practice hard and I can make all of the 10-footers I want to on a practice putting green, but until you make them in a tournament, that's when your confidence starts going and so forth. You know, that's hopefully what's helped me do for the U.S. Open. I never played Olympia Fields. I wasn't invited with Tiger and Jordan the other day. So I look forward to playing there.

Q. LA, your results tapered off, was that a jolt?

CHARLES HOWELL III: It was little bit both ways because I lead for so long and should have won it and then it was really bad in the end when I lost it. It was a little bit of a jolt. Because I can say that I felt I hit the ball better and was probably playing better afterwards but wasn't scoring as well. I can't directly say I was sitting there dwelling on it and thinking about it. You can look at it. You can't argue the fact that I was playing really well and then a bit down for a bit. The Wachovia Championship was important for me. I played well there on a really tough golf course. That golf course, Quail Hollow is very similar to this one as well. That was a really big week for me.

Q. You said you were nervous on the first tee was that because of your play at Byron Nelson or are you just very nervous on first tees all the time?

CHARLES HOWELL III: I'm always a little bit nervous. When I have taken the week off and worked really hard on my golf swing and now it's time to test it. It's a bit different than if I am at home playing a round with David Leadbetter and we are on the round on the first tee and this matters. I worked really hard on my swing last week. A couple changes, a few different thoughts and feelings. When you get on the first tee it takes a huge amount of trust to go ahead and trust that and let it go.

Q. I heard you say you played a practice round last year with Jack, you said he talked you how to play, did you get tips on how to play this course?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Every single hole. A lot of times more information than probably would even help me. But every hole we talked about, when he was designing this hole he looked for this or this or this. You know I did the same thing with him a few years ago at English Turn in New Orleans. We played a round together there. That was another one of his golf courses. It's amazing not even just from a designer perspective but from his perspective how he sees holes and how he would play them. It's just really neat to see that and to think that you don't have to go at every single flag. I remember one thing that he always told me was the third hole out here is a relatively short hole and the pin is back right as it is today, why not play it left of the hole and let the slope bring it in here. With the sand wedge or wedge in your hand, you are not thinking of playing it away from the flag to that extent. Just some little things, here or there like that. Going through every single hole it makes a difference.

Q. Did any of that help you today, was there any specific thing that you did from that?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Sure, every single hole. I can say overall I played the golf course much more conservatively playing with him than I did before.

Q. In the small number of majors that you've played as a pro, what have you learned about how to play them and prepare for them?

CHARLES HOWELL III: To be honest, I don't know the best thing, as far as playing the week before or not. I have played the week before a couple of times. I haven't a few other times. But preparing for them, for instance, last week working for the U.S. Open, I hit a lot of drivers and 3-woods and 2-irons. I worked a lot on those. I worked a lot on wedges 30, 40, 50, 67 yards wedge shots. U.S. Open, if you are left with those a lot of those shots getting up and down for par. I think in my limited knowledge, the best thing to do is treat it like another golf tournament.

I remember Arnold Palmer told me one time at Bay Hill, I asked him, how do you prepare for the majors? He said, I promise you any golf tournament you win, will feel like a major. Which means that every tournament is important. I'm trying as hard as I can wherever I go. That doesn't matter if it's an outing. I did an outing at Winged Foot, for the Royal Bank of Scotland. I was trying just as hard in that outing as I was today. So with that said, whether it is called the U.S. Open or whether it's called a club championship, I'm still going to try as hard as I can.

Q. What did you shoot?

CHARLES HOWELL III: I can't tell you that. 64.

Q. When Furyk was in yesterday, he said, during the years Jack has made some changes to this course, he tightened fairway made the change to 17 to try to control the power of some of these players?


Q. But Furyk would still classify this as a power hitter's course. But someone like him can also play well here given the right conditions. When you play well, what's the most important part of your game to play well on this course; is it the power or is it something else?

CHARLES HOWELL III: You know it's strange, a lot of people do say this is power hitter's course. I don't hit many drivers out here at all. We had talked about how hard 17 and 18 are. I hit a 3-wood off of both of those tees. I hit a 2-iron off of 18 before. I think the most important thing here is staying disciplined on your second shots. There are so many holes out here with corner pins that can trick you in and suck you into going at them. The bunkers around the greens here are very tough especially if you shortside yourself at all. I can go through my round: I hit 2 drivers on the back round today. I didn't hit one driver on the par-5 on the back nine. I hit a 3-wood on 11 and 15. So I wouldn't say this is as much as a power hitter's golf course that it might have been in years past with technology now.

Q. You mentioned playing discipline on your second shot, you mentioned earlier, since you played with Jack, you probably played more conservatively, is there anything to that?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Yes, it certainly does, no doubt about it. There are many pins out there where you are in there with a wedge, 9-iron or sand wedge and you want to go right at them. If you miss it 5 feet to the right you can be in a bunker with not very good odds of getting up and down for par or ten feet left and you've got a great chance for birdie. It's simple things like that that you forget about.

Q. Does the course fit you better now than after what Jack told you?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Yes, it does, for instance, let's say the first hole, I probably would have hit a driver off of that tee. Because the room left of that bunker there are still 25 yards to hit a driver and fit it in there, but now hitting 3-wood, it widens the fairway to 40 yards plus I'm not going to reach the far bunker through there. Now I'm much more comfortable on that tee. The same thing, for the 9th hole, where you probably could hit a driver if you want to get it way down there and hit a shorter club into that hole. If you lay back with a 3-wood or 2-iron, the fairway is much wider there. There are little things like that that can make a huge difference on how comfortable you are on the tee.

Q. Because of Annika, a lot of the public didn't start thinking about the U.S. Open until this week. Was that the same for you? When did you start thinking about the U.S. Open?

CHARLES HOWELL III: After The Masters was over with, I'd say. I was never going to or planning to play the Colonial, so I was never into any of that stuff. After The Masters was over with, I started looking that way. Everyone in the world knows what the premium of the USGA puts on you, it's driving the ball in the fairway. It's putting and chipping and it's not going crazy. It's just as simple as that. You know if you can play a whole U.S. Open and not beat your head in the wall once, you've probably done all right. That problem goes true for any major. I never played a British Open before. But the USGA can drive you crazy.

Q. How are you at not going crazy, pretty good?

CHARLES HOWELL III: Oh, yes. I'm still young. Give me a few years. I'm headed for the mental asylum. I'm just on a slower track.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Can we go through your birdies and bogeys, please.

CHARLES HOWELL III: I birdied the fourth hole, I hit a 6-iron to probably three inches there, par-3. The sixth hole, hit a second shot pitch short of the green, kicked back in the water, got up and down 100 yards for bogey.

Q. What iron was that into the bank?

CHARLES HOWELL III: A 9-iron. 7, I hit a driver and 3-wood to about 15 feet for eagle, 2-putted. 8, I hit an 8-iron to ten feet past the hole. Made that for birdie. 10, a driver and a 9-iron to eight feet for birdie. 13, driver and a sand wedge to ten feet. 15, a 3-wood and a 4-iron to 15 feet, eagle. 17, 3-wood, 6-iron to probably about 15 feet. And then 18, 3-wood, 9-iron to probably about 45 feet.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: A couple more questions.

Q. What was the length of your putt on 6 to save bogey?

CHARLES HOWELL III: That was probably about eight feet. That was an important putt there, yes.

Q. Because would you have gone crazy if you would have missed it?

CHARLES HOWELL III: No, I'm only 23. Give me a few years and I would have. I would have gone in the water.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Charles, for joining us.

End of FastScripts....

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