Howell can easily relate

Associated Press
Charles Howell: Defending champion at Riviera said Tiger Woods' success has "skewed the bar" set for young players.

LOS ANGELES --- With two years left in his 20s, Sergio Garcia already has won 16 times around the world and seriously contended in the majors, including runner-up finishes to Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington.

"Sergio Garcia, he's a failure. Really," Augusta native Charles Howell said in a voice hoarse from a commercial shoot and dripping with sarcasm. "The guy has had a hell of a career, but in a lot of people's eyes, he hasn't won a major, so he needs to hang it up and quit."

Majors aren't the only problem, and maybe not even the biggest.

It's Tiger Woods.

Howell, the defending champion in this week's Northern Trust Open, knows from experience. He is part of a growing list of young players who arrive on the PGA Tour with high expectations and get buried under an avalanche of comparisons with Woods.

Howell, 28, won at Riviera in 2007 when the tournament was known as the Nissan Open. He closed with 65, getting into a playoff thanks to a late mistake by Phil Mickelson, and making three clutch pars to outlast Lefty on the third extra hole.

It was only the second victory of Howell's career, feeding the perception that he's an underachiever.

Take Woods out of the picture, and Howell's career might not look that bad. He earned his card without going to Q-school, was voted rookie of the year, has made the Presidents Cup team twice and is a regular at the Tour Championship.

Riviera is loaded with talented young players, all of them held to a higher standard because of Woods.

"Tiger has skewed the bar to an extent where a lot of times, the young players are judged on a little different scale, as opposed to being patient, knowing that in the peak of many careers, guys are in their mid to late 30s," Howell said.

When he turned 30, Woods already had won 54 times worldwide and 10 majors, including the career Grand Slam twice over. No one before or after Woods came along has won so much so soon.

"What he's accomplished is nuts," Paul Goydos said of Woods earlier this year. "It's nuts. To even mention Tiger in the same conversation with young players and what they're going to accomplish is blatantly unfair."

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