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May 31, 2006

David Howell


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, David, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Memorial Tournament. Congratulations again on your victory last week. And you've had a heck of a season on the European Tour, and played fairly well over here.

Talk about your year a little bit.

DAVID HOWELL: Yeah, things are going great in general. I got off to a reasonably slow start in the Middle East just after Christmas, there. But in January, played very nicely and I feel a lot more comfortable when I've played over here. I haven't had any great finishes so far, but played some pretty decent golf. I feel more comfortable as a member of the Tour, rather than last year when I was playing on invites. Everything is going swimmingly, as we say.

Q. How big was that for your just with a big chunk of the major championship season, coming in to do what you did last week?

DAVID HOWELL: Yeah, it was it was a huge, huge week for me, really. It's by far the biggest tournament I've won so far. And more than anything the manner that I managed to win the tournament. I was so pleased about going out with the three shot lead, and actually playing my best tee to green probably for the week on Sunday. And it was very pleasing, and it was great for my confidence. And anytime you play well in that situation, it helps you for future situations.

Q. Just as a follow up to that, last time you had a one or two shot lead going in the last day, you closed quite nicely, too, with Tiger playing alongside you. Is that something that is kind of your MO, as we would say, over here, do you consider yourself a good frontrunner?

DAVID HOWELL: I'm not sure. Over the years I got to a stage where I generally performed pretty decent in that situation. Obviously when Tiger played was a big week. Sandwiched in the middle was the tournament in China, where I finished terribly, I shot 76 the last day, I had to take that on the chin. I guess I'm becoming more accomplished at finishing tournaments off. It took me a few years there, bit of a hiatus, in between my wins. But it was very pleasing to be able to stand up and play a really good round of golf on the last day under the pressure. If that does become my MO it bodes well for the future.

Q. How did the 2005 Masters help you seeing how you could do in a big spot, big tournament, carrying a lead for a couple of days like you did?

DAVID HOWELL: Well, The Masters was interesting. I felt badly when I played with Tiger on Saturday, he really showed his class, shot 64 or 5, and I was 76, which was a bit of a blow. But in general, just being at the Masters and that experience all experience is good experience, if you do well or badly. But a lot of people mentioned what have you learned from that experience that day. I'm a great believer in you learn from doing things well, rather than learning from your mistakes. It's not always easy just to learn from your mistakes. But all experience is good experience. The more I've played over here, the more comfortable I've begun to feel. So I guess I learned more from winning against Tiger in China than from the experience at the Masters.

Q. A lot of guys when they get into these areas, top 10 in the world, things like that, they're not really sure if they actually have the game or actually belong there, because they see so many players during the weeks, and so forth and so on. Do you think that your game and where you are now, do you belong in the top 10?

DAVID HOWELL: I do, because I'm a realist. I don't think I'm better than I am. And I'm not a cocky person. I don't walk around over confident for no reason. But also if you're 10th, you're 10th. I've never looked at the rankings in previous years, when I was 80th and looked at someone that was 10th, and said, "He's not the 10th best player in the world." They always seemed pretty good to me, the rankings, they seemed pretty relevant. And if they say I'm 10th, that's for good reason, then.

I certainly feel more comfortable with the situation, I wouldn't have gotten to 10th without winning a few tournaments, but now I'm winning consistently, I'm more comfortable with my situation in World Golf than I was when I was finishing consistently in the top five or ten, but not winning tournaments. The fact that I'm winning a few tournaments has boosted me up the rankings, I'm comfortable with my position.

Q. The presumption would be, at this point then, the next thing you look at is major championship, and obviously we write a lot about how there's not that many Europeans that have won majors over the past period of time. What does that require of you to get yourself into that situation?

DAVID HOWELL: Well, the next step for me is to even be in contention in a major. I think I started this years master 5 or 6 behind in the last day, that's the best position so far going into the last day in a major. I've always been I've always seen my career just step by step, gradually progressing. I haven't had a great chance to win at any tournament in America. That would be the next thing on my agenda. I would be surprised if a major came before a regular TOUR event, but these things can happen. My form at the Masters in the last few years gives me hope that one day I might have a chance to win that tournament, and that I'm getting better.

I'm probably just about good enough to conceivably think if I could play four days well at a major, I could have a chance to win. And hopefully I'm going to continue to get better. I'd love to be one of the people that Europe looked to to try and win this elusive major that we haven't won for a few years. But I'm just barging my way into that situation. There's guys that have been around longer than me, that the burden of expectation has been on their shoulders longer than mine. But I'm happy to be in that sort of surrounding.

Q. They write about that, too, at home?

DAVID HOWELL: It's become an issue, definitely. We all try our best. I'm not someone that dreamt to be the top 10 in the world. It just wasn't the way my career has gone all the way. But as I got better, now I can feasibly think about it.

Q. Were you a bit of a late bloomer, or were you accomplished in boys amateur?

DAVID HOWELL: No, I played at Walker Cup, the one Tiger played. I won the British boys at 18, if you're the best at 18 in the country, then there's reason to believe that you can be one of the best players. But I guess maybe my mentality comes back, my best friend at the time was a year younger, I wasn't the best player at my club.

Q. Who was that?

DAVID HOWELL: Gary Harris, who was a child Prodigy, he signed for five years in a row. I couldn't win a club championship, let alone British Opens. So maybe my mentality has come from that. I've always looked down on myself, really, haven't given myself as much credit as I should have done. But at times, I didn't deserve much credit. I'm better than I was five or six years ago.

Q. So where is he now?

DAVID HOWELL: Working in a factory.

Q. What club was it

DAVID HOWELL: He turned pro, and the Walker Cup I played and he turned that down. Our careers just went different ways, and it didn't work out for him.

Q. What was your club?

DAVID HOWELL: A municipal club in Swinden, 27 hole municipal. I didn't have great expectations when I turned pro. If I had sold in a pro shop, I would have been happy.

Q. What would have been the option if you hadn't turned?

DAVID HOWELL: I was always going to turn pro. I would be a teaching pro. I was prepared to do that, it wasn't an issue.

Q. Your U.S. Open experience is quite limited. You withdrew last year, right?

DAVID HOWELL: I withdrew last year, and the first one I played in was my second event back after a broken arm at Bethpage. I haven't got great experience.

Q. What was the WD last year, was it an injury?

DAVID HOWELL: Yes, I swung I was using Vijay's heavy club, and thought I was stronger than I was and tore my stomach muscles.

Q. What did you make of the two Opens you played briefly? Did you even start last year?

DAVID HOWELL: I played the first round. Well, the U.S. Open is a brutally difficult I think when I played the first one at Bethpage, even though I was injured, I probably just wasn't good enough to cope with the course, to be honest with you. The U.S. Open is not a tournament you can fluke and do well. You have to play great golf. The best guys that week are always the ones that win. I'm in better shape with my game to be able to cope with U.S. Open. Certainly before I would have looked at them with just happiness that I was there. But not with much optimism that I would do well. Obviously I've got past the point of I certainly look forward to this one with much higher expectations.

Q. Will you go over before the tournament?

DAVID HOWELL: I'm playing Westchester, whether that allows me to play Monday or Tuesday next week, I don't know. I don't think an awful there's not an awful lot you get it down the fairway and putt well.

Q. How old were you when you played competitive golf?

DAVID HOWELL: It was this tournament in '99, I managed to get an invite to this, which was wonderful. I didn't play very well and missed the cut. That was my first competitive tournament here.

Q. You were saying you were prepared to be a teacher, possibly, does that mean you feel like you have a pretty firm grasp of the golf swing from a technical standpoint?

DAVID HOWELL: Absolutely not, no. I'm not saying I would have been a good teacher, I would have been a teacher (laughter) that's the great thing, growing up as a kid, deciding whether you're going to turn pro at golf. It's a sport like any other, there are other ways to make a living from golf other than playing. Obviously there's coaching, to the highest level, but I'd have been an assistant pro in a pro shop. That's what I would have done.

Q. Is there a golf background in your family?

DAVID HOWELL: No, no, not really. My grandparents played. But not particularly.

Q. Your father didn't?

DAVID HOWELL: No, my father is dreadful. He had a set of bats, as he would call them. My mum took it up to a degree, got enough to get a handicap for a couple of years. I'm the only one, really, for some reason.

Q. After Bethpage, did you have to step back and reevaluate what you were doing or how you were doing it?

DAVID HOWELL: Actually that coincided with breaking the arm, that coincided with the worst year of my career. I never had a top 10 finish in a year after that. A number of reasons why. I didn't really pay enough attention to coming back from the injury. I didn't rehab my arm enough, probably wasn't fully fit, what I didn't really realize, as the year was going on. And then I sat down at the end of that year and reassessed my goals and realized with breaking the arm, my career could have been feasibly taken away from me, and what an opportunity I had.

I thought I had more to give and I could achieve more. So I made some big decisions and changed my coach, sort of moved home to better practice facilities, pulled in some medical staff to patch me up so I could be more fully fit. And here we are five years later, talking to you guys.

Q. Do you sense an impatience in the UK press for there to be the next dominant English player or Scottish player? How do you handle that pressure or that expectation?

DAVID HOWELL: Well, it doesn't affect me whatsoever. I'm just delighted with how my career is going. I'd be very surprised if they started all the expectancy is put on my shoulders. Maybe it will happen if I can continue to stay in the top 10 for the next few years. But certainly I don't feel there's that expectancy. It's a strange it's a bit of conundrum at the moment, British golf is great, and yet with it being so strong, we haven't got the Nick Faldo that everyone is crying out for. Monty obviously has maybe just gone off the ball a little bit now. But our press would love to have the real big super star again, whether it's me or not, time will tell. But I'll be very surprised. But would love to give them the opportunity, maybe. But certainly, personally, I don't feel any burden of expectancy.

Q. You talked earlier about where you stood the last day of Augusta this year and your start last year, but what about Oakland Hills, how much of a boost was that career wise, confidence wise?

DAVID HOWELL: It was a big it was a realization of a dream for me to play in the Ryder Cup. I managed to win a point, which was fantastic. I didn't play great. I played dreadfully in the singles, which was frustrating.

Q. You got the RBS shot of the year?

DAVID HOWELL: I did, yes, which is I guess it was a big thing for me just when you walk on the range after winning the Ryder Cup for Europe, the preceding weeks, the following weeks, rather. You feel great. I remember for years seeing the other guys playing Ryder Cups, and being in awe, them coming back with the trophy. All of a sudden, I was one of those people, even though I played a very small part in that team's success. But, yeah, it was another boost for me. All these good things that happen, happen to you mentally, and at the end of the day you have to have the game to prove it. And it's my game that's improving. And when it comes up with these good things, experience, getting to know the guys, all of a sudden you know Tiger and Phil, I'm not great mates with them, but you know them, they're just human beings, and once you've beaten them once, it can happen again. It's not going to happen every time, they're still better players than me. But all of a sudden, you don't have any fear playing with anybody, and that's a big thing.

Q. Who did you follow when you were a kid?

DAVID HOWELL: I didn't have any particular heroes, but obviously it was the glory days when I started watching, Sandy Lyle was the first British Open, to Seve and Faldo winning The Masters. They were good days for kids to get interested in golf. Which The Masters that year was tremendously exciting, and you could guarantee that there would be a European in the lead or pretty close, when it came on TV, which was obviously very exciting.

Q. To change gears one second, they're doing some different things with the bunkering out here. We always talk about how the Europeans, they play in all different conditions, do these bunkers differ for you, do they make a big difference, have you seen bunkers like this or worse?

DAVID HOWELL: No, I haven't seen the bunkers. We were talking about it last night with a gentleman that does the course design. It's going to be interesting to see how it works out. There's really different points of views. Ernie is one of the best bunker players in the world and feels his talent for getting in the bunkers is being questioned. If you don't have a great lie you can't play a great shot. So all of a sudden it's possibly favoring the guys that you've really seen them as hazards, and you have to stay away from them, and you have to alter your game plan. And it's going to be an advance to the guys that hit a lot of greens. If you get in bunkers, you're not going to get up and down all the time. It's going to take it back more to accuracy off the tee. If you want to see golf like that they're doing the right thing. And if you want to see them Tiger's form of golf or whoever, just goes out there or as Seve used to play, and see guys getting up and down to save par, you're not going to get so much of that. It's going to make people play slightly differently, I think. And I guess only after doing it a few different times or different tournaments will we see if it's the right way to go or the wrong way. It's certainly the easiest way to make the golf course harder is to change the rakes. It's the cheapest way.

Q. Have you been warned, if that's the right word, about the severity of the bunkers at Winged Foot, and how steep the faces are, has that been discussed amongst your peers?

DAVID HOWELL: I really haven't got a clue where Winged Foot is or what sort of course it is, I'll have to admit, so, no.

Q. How much are you playing the two Tours, do you concentrate here but you'll go back?

DAVID HOWELL: I'm going to play 15, the minimum events over here, and the two goals, that I'm leading the Order of Merit, so that's going to be my main goal for the year, next year may be slightly different, may play more than 15 here next year. I'm enjoying it over here. I'm just fine on both sides.

Q. Will the FedEx Cup thing, have you thought about that at all?

DAVID HOWELL: I have. I don't think it's going to change. I'm going to play a bit more early on next year. I'm disappointed in the season, I'm way behind of how many I wanted to play over here. I'll do things differently next year. It's going to be interesting to see how things pan out next year, obviously it gives the European Tour time to set more events after the FedEx is finished. I need to see their schedule on what I'm going to do and how I'm going to go about it; enticing prospects.

End of FastScripts.

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