Accenture Match Play interview: Charles Howell III

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February 21, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Accenture transcripts archive

DOUG MILNE:  We'd like to welcome Charles Howell.  Charles, thanks for joining us for a few minutes after a convincing win today.  Your season has gotten off to a great start and it's really transcended well into the match play format here.  Just some comments on the big win today.

CHARLES HOWELL:  You know, since I missed the cut in LA, so last Friday I kind of knew how the bracket would work, I'd probably play Tiger.  Wednesday couldn't have come soon enough, and then had all the weather, etcetera.  Then this morning all the delays and everything.  I felt like I've played him about five or six times before we've even teed off to
As I said yesterday or the day before, we've‑‑ I've played a lot of golf with Tiger, and he's been a friend.  He's helped me out along the way.  I've had questions, I've asked for help from him, he's always been extremely gracious with that.  Then on top of that, I don't think I've ever beat the guy while we were playing in the same group.  That goes back to Isleworth.
And even today, I mean, I knew I had to play extremely well to have a chance, and I still kept waiting for that Tiger moment.  He hit his second shot into 15 from the fairway, looked awfully good, but it pitched long, and his tee shot on 16 never left the flag.  He missed that putt.
Really I didn't even realize I was dormie 2‑up with two to go until I got right to the tee on 17, and it actually threw me for a bit because I never maybe was really in the moment and didn't quite realize how things were.
And as far as beating Tiger Woods goes, it shows you that match play is crazy.  I did have to play a good round, but hey, it's‑‑ yeah, it's a bit hard to believe sitting here today with this.

Q.  Never mind beating Tiger; at any point were you worried you guys might not beat darkness?
CHARLES HOWELL:  Well, we didn't beat snow, and‑‑ I knew it would be close, but walking to the tee on 17, Robby Ware asked, Charles, do you want to keep going or stop?  You can do what you want.  I said, well, it really doesn't matter to me, we can go either way.  And I turned around and said, Tiger, what do you want to do, keep going or stop?  And he said let's keep going.  Had he said I want to stop, that would have been fine.  Either way I was fine with it.  But it was awfully dark.
I spent more time on my putt on 16 and 17 trying to figure out the uphill‑downhill part of it because when it gets dark everything looks so flat, but yeah, it was pretty dark.

Q.  Tiger was just talking about how he thought he played pretty well today and it was a good round for him.  Does the win over him mean anything more, the fact that he played well and you were still able to get him?
CHARLES HOWELL:  Yeah, I mean, as I said, I've never got him heads up, so this is‑‑ but yeah.  In a way, listen, I had nothing to lose coming into this match.  Every time Tiger Woods tees it up, he's a marked man and he's got the bulls eye on his back.  And this tournament has proven with Nick O'Hern and Peter O'Malley and a couple other guys.  In a way it is freeing to play golf that way, but yeah, I knew I had to play really well just to have a chance coming down the end, and then you never know what's going to happen.
And that's where we were today.  If I don't make that putt on 16 and I'm only 1‑up or Tiger makes it and we're even, you just never know.

Q.  You said you felt like you had already played Tiger pretty much.  When it comes to delays, and obviously this was a big one, how much does that play on the mind when you don't even tee off until 1:00 p.m.?
CHARLES HOWELL:  You know, it just makes for a long week because knowing that you're going to play a guy like him, I knew I had to play my best.  So I am going through my mind, and I'm going through my mind, and you start hearing it on Monday, hey, you've got Tiger.  And people ask, hey, who do you play in the first round?  And you say Tiger.  And they say, oh.  You get that.  And I think it's more the lead up to it.  It's a bit‑‑ I'd say that, that more than anything.  Comforting in the fact that I knew I had to play really well to have a chance, but long in the fact of you're ready for Wednesday to get here and go play.

Q.  You probably could have closed him out a little bit earlier.  You had certainly some good looks at putts and one lipped out.  I know he said he played well, but you must have played extremely well.
CHARLES HOWELL:  I did.  I missed a couple short ones, misread them, a couple goofy breaks out there.  But the match really swung that sort of 9, 10, 11, in there.  Tiger had two good looks at 10 and 11 and he missed both of them, and I expect him to make at least one of those.
Once we got through 13, I knew it would be close after that because 14 with a back left flag, then 15 wasn't drivable under these conditions today.  But I did play well, but like I said, I still kept waiting for that moment, him to do something.

Q.  And is that just part of the fact that you've played for so many years with him that you've seen it‑‑ I don't know if it happened at Isleworth, but‑‑
CHARLES HOWELL:  It's part of the getting beat by him so many times, yeah, you're just waiting for it.  It's kind of like a whipped dog; you know it's coming.
Yeah, I mean, he's‑‑ in my mind now I can think of 20‑ to 25‑foot putts he's made on the last hole at Isleworth to clip us.  And hey, I mean, I'm a fan of his.  I watch‑‑ I watch the golf just like everybody does, and you see those towering iron shots that never leave the flag and waiting for the putter to go up in the air with his left hand.  It caught me off guard that he missed the putt on 16.  I really thought he would make that one.  That's in his wheelhouse.  That's the stage he excels at really well.  It really caught me when he missed that one and I went 2‑up.

Q.  In other words, you had the Tiger moment; you made the long one?
CHARLES HOWELL:  That's right, it was just too dark to see it go in.

Q.  I hate to beat up the point, but not once in all those matches at Isleworth, you never clipped him?
CHARLES HOWELL:  No, we played Tavistock Cups together, paired together on the second day all the time, never beat him.  No.  No.  I might have beat him in a stroke play where we never appeared together, but for a cumulative 72‑hole score, but not at home, no.

Q.  And the miss on 14 for you, did you feel like‑‑ was there any concern at all that the momentum would swing back in his direction?
CHARLES HOWELL:  Oh, yeah, darned right.  Hit a shot in there, and I actually hit a good putt there and I misread it.  I didn't hit a bad putt, but still, when you miss one like that against that guy and the momentum goes his way at all, it's usually not good.  It almost felt like I had lost the hole when I did that.
Then his second shot going long on 15, it was hard to see because that ball never left the flag, either.  It was a bit surprising.

Q.  So you said you deferred to Tiger on whether to keep going or call it a day.  Can you honestly say you would have been fine sleeping on this lead and knowing you had to go back and play tomorrow, finish this out?
CHARLES HOWELL:  Yeah, it was dark.  We couldn't see our drives land.  We lost them out there halfway maybe in flight.  I'd have been fine with that.  Either way.  My second shot, I hit a wedge into the green, lost the ball halfway there, couldn't see it.  Couldn't tell where it finished.  So I would have been fine either way.  Didn't matter.  In a way I had the momentum, and in the other way we could have seen.

Q.  Why did it not occur to you to say, let's stop?
CHARLES HOWELL:  Because I had the momentum.  So I could have gone either way.  There was a plus for me to keep going because I just made the putt on 16 and was 2‑up.  There was also a plus in stopping because we could have seen what we were doing.

Q.  When you're last off on a Sunday trying to win a Tour event, there must be a lot of anxiety waiting to play all day.  But how is the anxiety different when you're waiting to play one man and the one man is Tiger Woods?  How are those two things different?
CHARLES HOWELL:  Well, you're waiting three days, Monday, Tuesday and then Wednesday.  And it's similar to playing late on a Sunday, but that being stroke play, it's easier to sort of focus just on your game and what you're doing, and then a guy can shoot 64 and blow by you that you can't control.  This, it's just myself and Tiger, arguably the greatest to ever live.
It's not a match thatat least that I go into thinking, hey, I'm going to win this.  It's more a match of, hey, I need to play really good to hang in there with this guy.  It takes good golf, but it also takes a certain level of acceptance that he's going to do some great things, and as a player you have to ignore that and keep focused on your game.
As comfortable as I am playing with him himself, it's different when there's all the fans and obviously very pro‑Tiger, all the media, the camera, etcetera.  It's different.  I mean, trust me, my match tomorrow I'm going to have a lot less people out there, and I get it, right, I get it.  But it's just the whole atmosphere and the whole circus is so different playing with him.

Q.  You talked about the misses at 13 and 14, those seven‑foot type.  You made three birdie putts outside 20 feet.  How did the putter feel in your hands today?
CHARLES HOWELL:  Well, the‑‑ I've spent a lot of time working on my short game, and that's an area where I still have to get better at.  You know, the whole‑‑ when I look at a guy like Tiger or Phil, that level of quality player, their short games are phenomenal, and mine has a long way to go to get there, just their whole range of shots they have around the green.  So with that said, I've spent a tremendous amount of time on it, and it was nice to see some go in today from that range.  Unfortunately the putter doesn't cooperate every day, but today was a good day for it, too.
DOUG MILNE:  Charles, congratulations.  We appreciate your time.

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