Indiana Daily Student

Howell ends long drought with playoff victory

LOS ANGELES – Charles Howell III finally ended that nasty habit of finishing second, making three clutch pars in a playoff that delivered a dramatic victory against Phil Mickelson in the Nissan Open on Sunday.\nHowell closed with a 6-under 65 and got into a playoff when Mickelson bogeyed the 18th hole. Howell put away the two-time Masters champion with his third straight par save, holing a 3-foot putt on the 4th hole and raising his head to the sky in utter relief.\n“I said a prayer before I hit the putt,” Howell said. “I said, ‘It’s time. Go in.’”\nIt was only the second victory of his career, and Howell had been haunted by nine runner-up finishes since winning the now-defunct Michelob Championship in the fall of 2002. He already had two runner-up finishes in four starts this year, including three weeks ago against Tiger Woods down the coast at Torrey Pines.\nMickelson, bidding for his second straight victory, had control throughout the playoff until coming up short of the green on the par-3 14th. He opted for putter, but it took a high hop leaving the blade and stopped 10 feet short. The par putt missed to the right.\nHowell also was short, but his chip came out nicely just beyond the cup.\n“I had every chance on the back nine to create some separation and not give anyone a chance,” said Mickelson, who twice missed putts inside 4 feet and closed with a 68. “I felt like I had the tournament in my grasp and let it go.”\nThey finished at 16-under 268.\nErnie Els (67), Jim Furyk (67) and Robert Allenby (68) tied for third, three shots out of the playoff.\nEls and Allenby both had chances to catch Mickelson along the back nine of a mostly sunny afternoon, but the Big Easy was tripped up by three bogeys, while Allenby fell back with a three-putt from 60 feet on the fringe at the 15th.\nHowell earned $936,000 and is atop the PGA Tour money list for the first time in his career. Aside from finally getting his hands on another trophy, Howell accomplished his first goal of 2007. The victory all but assures he can return to the Masters in April because the Augusta native will climb into top 25 in the world ranking.

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