PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. - After his recent experience in a pressure cooker match at the U.S. Amateur, Augusta's Charles Howell isn't worried about being nervous in today's first round of the Buick Challenge.
It will be the first PGA Tour event for Howell, the top-ranked junior golfer in the country, who is in the field on a sponsor's exemption.
In the U.S. Amateur last month, Howell lost to eventual champion Tiger Woods 3 and 1 in a third-round match. That match pitted the No. 1-ranked junior in the country against the No. 1 men's amateur at the time.
"We teed off in front of 7,000 people," Howell said. "I'll be nervous in this tournament but I'm nervous at all tournaments because I'm trying to do my best. It's all what you make of it."
The 17-year-old Howell played a practice round on Tuesday morning with PGA Tour members Mike Hulbert and Justin Leonard, outdriving them with regularity. He will play with Aiken resident Hugh Royer III and John Elliott of Bristol, Conn., in today's final pairing at 1;42 p.m. The same group will play together on Friday at 9:12 a.m.
"He's improved a lot in a year," said Hulbert, who met Howell at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla., where both are disciples. "The thing about his age is he doesn't act afraid or nervous. If he can control that, he's got a real good chance to make the cut and play well. He's got all the tools. This is a good opportunity for him."
Before withdrawing due to mental exhaustion on Wednesday, Woods said Howell should "soak up as much information as he can from these players. Talk to them in the locker room and the driving range and make as many friends as you can. I know he wants to be out here one day and hopefully this is where he'll end up."
No matter what happens the next two days, Howell said, "I can't be disappointed. I'll come away from this as a positive. Everything I do here will be a learning experience."