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When winning isn't so easy

Charles Howell turned professional with great fanfare. Seven years later, Howell is an excellent example of stardom not being guaranteed.

By BOB HARIG
Published January 16, 2007


Charles Howell turned professional with great fanfare. A long hitter despite his wiry frame, he was coming off an individual victory in the NCAA tournament for Oklahoma State, setting a scoring record. A two-time All-American, he earned special temporary member status in just six events in 2000, and although nobody expected him to immediately challenge Tiger Woods, Howell did not shy away from such talk. Seven years later, Howell is an excellent example of stardom not being guaranteed.

Howell is an excellent player who has won more than $12-million in his career, but he showed Sunday just how hard it is to win.

Despite an eagle at the ninth hole that gave him a two-shot advantage at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Howell, 27, was unable to secure his second PGA Tour victory. He shot 37 on the back nine and let tour journeyman Paul Goydos sneak off with the win. It was the seventh time since his lone victory in 2002 that Howell finished runnerup.

"This one hurts," Howell said.

Another way to look at it for Howell is to say that it was a great start to the year after he struggled for much of 2006. He moved from 86th to 58th in the Official World Golf Ranking, giving himself a shot at making the Masters field in his hometown, Augusta, Ga.

And he is far from alone when it comes to players who have underachieved in the era of Woods.

A few high-profile examples:

And remember these guys?

Hank Kuehne: He won the 1998 U.S. Amateur but has not won on the PGA Tour and suffered a back injury last year that limited him to just nine events.

David Gossett: He won the 1999 U.S. Amateur and the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour in 2001. By 2004, he made just two cuts in 25 events and didn't earn his card last fall at Q School.

Jeff Quinney: He won the 2000 U.S. Amateur and finally made it to the PGA Tour this year after finishing sixth on the 2006 Nationwide Tour money list.

Bubba Dickerson: The former University of Florida golfer turned pro after helping the Gators win the national title in 2001 and capturing the 2001 U.S. Amateur. He made it to the PGA Tour in 2006 but didn't keep his card.

Ty Tryon: He made the cut at the Honda Classic at age 16 in 2001, then earned his PGA Tour card later that year. But Tryon has been unable to keep exempt status the past two seasons on the Nationwide Tour.

Woe is Wie

The time has come for Michelle Wie to concentrate on women's events and put aside her goal of competing against men. It's just not working, and it threatens to undermine her popularity. A few numbers associated with Wie:

0 Victories since turning pro in late 2005

1 Significant victories of any kind, the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, where she lost in the finals the following year

7 Times she has tried and not made a cut on the PGA Tour

3 Top-five finishes in LPGA major championships in 2006

19.5 The amount, in millions of dollars, that Wie reportedly received in endorsement income in 2006. Maybe that's why she keeps playing against men - to justify the big money.

Sergio Garcia

The Spaniard has six PGA Tour victories and 10 more international titles, so it is difficult to say he has been a bust. But Garcia, who just turned 27, provided enormous expectations when he finished second to Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship at age 19. Since then, he has not won a major, although he does have six top-five finishes. Last year, he trailed Woods by just a shot entering the final round of the British Open and tied for fifth. Ranked 11th in the world, he did not win last year.

Adam Scott

All indications are the Australian will be a force. He won the Tour Championship in November and defeated Ernie Els in a playoff at the Singapore Open in Asia. But Scott, who turns 27 this year, has never been in contention over the final nine holes of a major championship, with his best finish a tie for third last year at the PGA. He has just four PGA Tour titles.

Aaron Baddeley

Another Aussie, Baddeley caught the golf world's attention when he won back-to-back Australian Opens as an amateur in 1999 and 2000. After playing the Nationwide Tour in 2002, he made it to the PGA Tour in 2003 but didn't earn his first victory until last year's Verizon Heritage. Although 2006 was his best season, Baddeley, 25, missed 11 cuts.