Originally created 04/13/02

Howell leaves course on edge



Charles Howell made it to the weekend in his first Masters, but he still has a long way to go before making the cut.

With 176 yards left to the pin on the 10th hole, rain sent Howell home to sleep on the cut line. At 7:45 a.m. he'll strike a 7-iron from the fairway and hope to spark a surge on the back nine.

"I get nine holes early in the morning, so the course should be a little softer," Howell said. "The course is out there, I just need a good round in the morning."

At 3-over for the tournament, Howell is tied for 41st, right on the cut line. Only the low 44 and ties will get to play the final two rounds.

Despite all the attention Howell has received in his debut at his hometown major, and all the energy and emotion he's put into succeeding at Augusta National, the 22-year-old isn't applying too much pressure on himself as he faces a situation with no margin for error.

"I would't go that far," Howell said of the pressure being comparable to a Masters Sunday. "There are some birdie holes back there, and if I play smart we'll see what happens. I feel good about it."

With one round under his J. Lindeberg "1-iron" belt buckle, Howell wasn't as nervous Friday. His clothes were a little more conventional - black slacks (no stripe) and a blue argyle sweater.

Teeing off in the last group of the day, Howell encountered a course saturated by rain. After missing good birdie opportunities on Nos. 2 and 3, he birdied the fourth to get to 1-over. But bogeys for the second straight day on Nos. 6 and 9 left him where he is.

"I thought I hit it really well today, just a few birdie putts I would have liked to have made plus a short putt for par on the ninth hole," he said.

Three-time Masters champion Gary Player, playing the first two rounds with Howell, says the group got the worst of the tee times - midday on Thursday and last out Friday.

"He's unlucky, he got the worst part of the draw," Player said. "When you have to tee off dead last like we did today, it's very difficult. I felt sorry for Charles today because it's a terrible time to go. People are packing up, and guys are checking the greens. It's just a tough deal for him, but he's not the kind of guy who would make any excuses."

Howell, in fact, never even mentioned the bad draw.

Player gushed about Howell's personality and his game, and he expressed confidence that Howell has the skill and temperament to get the job done today.

"I think he'll do it," Player said. "I think he'll do it."

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.