BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Charles Howell III wasn't in a talkative mood Friday after the second round of the PGA Championship, ignoring requests from two reporters as he walked toward the Oakland Hills clubhouse. It was easy to understand why.
At six-over coming to the par-4 18th hole, in position to play on the weekend after missing the cut in the first three major championships of 2008, Howell made a sloppy double-bogey on the final hole to shoot a 76 and finish at eight-over 148.
It was a wild second round for the 29-year-old Howell, who arrived on tour with vast expectations as the record-setting 2000 NCAA champion. He bogeyed five consecutive holes starting at No. 6, then fought back with three birdies in a row. But he drove poorly at the 498-yard 18th, recovered to the fairway and then came up short in a greenside bunker on his third shot from about 100 yards. He exploded 15 feet past the hole and missed the bogey putt.
Howell, who won the 2007 Nissan Open to go with his 2002 Michelob Championship title, arrived in Michigan without much success in the majors throughout his career. A T-10 at the 2003 PGA at Oak Hill is his only top-10 finish in 23 major appearances. Beyond his major drought in 2008, he has had only two top-10s and is 74th on the money list this season.
A few stats reveal why he hasn't been in contention this year. Howell is 159th on the PGA Tour in putting average, 195th in driving accuracy, 136th in birdies per round and 142nd in scrambling.
He started working with sport psychologist Richard Coop about a month ago in hopes of turning his play around. They will be concentrating on Howell's short game--long the weakest part of his arsenal and a liability at Oakland Hills. Howell had 33 putts in the first round and 30 Friday. He was 0-for-5 in sand saves in the second round.
"He has some imagination, but it has had a lot of dust on it for a few years," Coop said of Howell. "In the long game, he has a lot of talent, but that's all we know. He was taught to make the perfect 5-iron swing." Coop had Howell play a practice round this week with Corey Pavin, another of his pupils, who has a renowned short game and ability to craft different kinds of shots. "Charles was very receptive to that," Coop said. "We hope to turn around [his play], but you've got to be careful not to force things. The hardest thing for instructors is not so much what they do, but when they do it--the sequence of things. In the golf swing, certain things are like weight-bearing walls, and certain things are just cosmetic. Same thing with psychology."
According to Coop, Howell could have ended up with better than a 72 in the first round. "Yesterday he played better than he scored," Coop said. "But that's what you do when you're on the comeback trail. Then you start building confidence and you have a couple of days where you score better than you play."
Unfortunately for Howell, Friday wasn't one of those days, particularly on No. 18.
-- Bill Fields