Lengthy wait over as Howell returns to Kapalua after 11 years


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KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — No event is tougher to qualify for than the Sentry Event of Champions.

Nobody is aware of that in addition to Charles Howell III.

With the ultimate shot of 2018 on the PGA Tour, he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the second additional gap to win the RSM Basic. That made him the ultimate participant to qualify for the winners-only subject at Kapalua.

For Howell, that meant his first return to Maui in 11 years.

“In a single sense, it appears like a lifetime in the past,” Howell stated. “And in a single sense, it appears like yesterday.”

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All of it seemed so acquainted when he arrived, from turning down the highway lined by Cook dinner pines to the Ritz-Carlton, the sweeping views of the Pacific from the Plantation Course that was constructed on the aspect of a mountain, the acquainted butterfly emblem all over the place he seemed.

After which he began doing the mathematics.

Within the 11 years since he was at Kapalua, Howell has teed it up 340 instances on the PGA Tour till he received once more, and even that wasn’t straightforward. He needed to birdie three of the final 4 holes simply to get right into a playoff at Sea Island, and the way in which he dropped to his knees when the profitable putt dropped illustrated the dimensions of the burden lifted.

Profitable received him to paradise, which in Howell’s case begins with the Masters. He grew up in Augusta, Georgia, his mother and father nonetheless reside a brief drive from Augusta Nationwide and he has needed to watch the Masters on tv the final six years.

However there was one thing particular about Kapalua, too.

“You see the opposite guys round me, you see the sphere I’m in — Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy. And it’s like, ‘Holy cow, I’m on this subject,’” Howell stated. “There was a time I questioned that possibly I used to be not going to win anymore. I’ve had a superb profession. I’m pleased with what I’ve finished, and if it ends now, it could be good.”

Now he’s interested by the place it begins.

Dustin Johnson is the defending champion when the brand new 12 months begins Thursday on a course with a few of the widest fairways, greatest greens, sharp shifts in elevation and views of humpback whales breaching within the channel between Maui and Molokai.

It’s the place everybody needs to be at first of the 12 months, except a schedule or the necessity for day without work will get in the way in which. That’s why Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose are the one 2018 winners not within the 34-man subject. Woods hasn’t performed Kapalua since 2005, and he contemplated coming this 12 months till the ultimate few weeks having certified by profitable the Tour Championship, ending a five-year battle of again accidents.

Johnson and Thomas are enjoying for the fourth straight 12 months, the longest energetic streak of profitable on the PGA Tour. They comprehend it’s not straightforward to win, regardless that they’ve made it look that approach at instances.

“If it wasn’t as laborious, I might win extra,” Johnson stated. “So, yeah, it’s tough. There’s so many good gamers on the PGA Tour. Any week any man that’s enjoying within the subject’s received an opportunity to win and so it’s simply tough to win.”

The final time Howell was at Kapalua, the sphere featured 10 gamers now on the PGA Tour Champions. He didn’t have specks of grey in his hair. He didn’t have two youngsters, ages eight and seven. McIlroy was in his first full 12 months as a professional. Woods solely had 13 majors.

He has heard for too lengthy that he ought to have received extra than simply thrice on the PGA Tour, although his victory at Sea Island was fashionable simply because he needed to wait so lengthy for the following one. So many expectations triggered him to lose perspective. Howell nonetheless has amassed simply over $37 million in profession earnings, a product of consistency that the majority gamers would like to have.

“After I went to Oklahoma State, I didn’t know I used to be going to play golf on the PGA Tour. I went there to see if I might, and that was my greatest shot,” he stated. “In the event you had instructed me I might play on the PGA Tour for 20 years and by no means lose my card, I’d take that in a heartbeat. Typically, we lose that perspective.”

Within the days earlier than he flew over, Howell discovered a well-known, understated letter in his mailbox — his invitation to the Masters for profitable at Sea Island.

His final look at his hometown occasion was in 2012.

“One of the best Christmas current you would get,” he stated. “I hadn’t considered it as a result of I hadn’t gotten on in so lengthy I forgot they did that. On this fashionable world we reside in, I’m shocked they didn’t textual content the invitation.”

He has by no means been so keen about enjoying the Masters, primarily so daughter Ansley and son Chase can see the course, caddie within the Par Three Event and be at Augusta throughout its most magical week, and never simply to go to their grandparents.

He appreciates being at Kapalua greater than the opposite two journeys, similar to he’ll have a look at this Masters in a different way from his different eight appearances.

“I’ve by no means loved that event earlier than. It was at all times larger than life,” Howell stated. “I needed to play so properly that I most likely over ready for it. This time, with the children being there for the Par 3, I’ll make it some extent to benefit from the occasion.”

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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