Charles Howell will look silly when he finally wins on the PGA Tour

When 23-year-old Charles Howell III wins his first tournament on the PGA Tour, which will happen very soon, he will think back to a certain sunny day 10 years ago at a driving range in Orlando, Fla.

He was 13 at the time, and Howell was hacking away, showing off muscles he didn't have while instructor Brian Ledbetter worked on accuracy with Nick Faldo a couple stations away.

Howell, a wiry, tan and cocky teenager wasn't impressed. He couldn't be bothered with such nonsense. When Ledbetter was finished with Faldo, who won the British Open that summer, he walked over to Howell.

Ledbetter helped him hit the ball to Georgia, where Howell was raised in the shadow of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, which Faldo had won two summers before Howell scoffed at his tactics in Florida.

"I'm thankful that he saw where the game was going," Howell said of Ledbetter.

Howell averages 291.90 yards per drive, 10th longest on the PGA Tour. He's not sure where he gets his power, and most people who meet him think the same. Howell's weighs 155 pounds, or so says the official PGA Tour media guide. I don't believe it, unless that number was fantasized because he stepped on the scale with a 20-pound steak in his belly and a two sleeves of golf balls in each pocket.

He's a joy to watch, though, which, of course, says nothing of his wardrobe. If Howell were to ever get on Fox's 'Best Damn Sports Show Period' Michael Irvin would be jealous.

On Friday at Montreux, Howell was wearing a yellow collared shirt, lined with thick blue, red and white stripes. It was a shirt a thrift store wouldn't want.

Soon, Howell will have more tournament wins than wry smiles. When he speaks in his southern drawl at press conferences in 10 years, he will be a superstar. His words will make people think something else besides grits and gumbo. His words will demand a different type of interpretation, stumping sportswriters more than Tigers Woods' forever broken record quote of "I really grinded out there today."

For now, though, Woods, or even better, Sergio Garcia, can entertain us until Howell is ready. Ever since Howell turned pro following his 2000 NCAA Championship at Oklahoma State University, the expectations have been enormous. With eight top-10 finishes in two years on tour, he hasn't disappointed. But he hasn't won, either.

"I think it's good to have expectations, I guess (it's) some form of flattery," said Howell, who lost a playoff to finish second at the Greater Milwaukee Open this summer. "I don't think people understand the difficulty of competition out here and how good the players are. With Tiger Woods winning all the time, the quality of players gets overlooked sometimes."

As stubborn as he is, he's no dummy. Howell's already made two changes in an attempt to try and win that all important first tournament--he hired caddie Brenden McCartain, who helped Jose Maria Olazabal win the '99 Masters, and he's switched drivers to a Callaway's Big Bertha II, a club almost as big as him.

His swing will remain, and it should. It's the same one that allowed him when he just 10 to shoot his first round in the 60s. As far leaving the house with the same clothes his mother dressed him with when he was 10, well, one day they'll be stylish, but only when he starts winning.


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