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Charles Howell to play in Australian Open

THE young golfer with the Ivy League name who forced the US PGA to change its rules is the latest signing for this month's Australian Open.

Charles Howell III – now touted in the US as Tiger Woods' most realistic challenger – has confirmed his entry for the event at The Grand in Queensland from November 22–25.

Howell, 22, took the US PGA Tour by surprise this year when he gambled on winning his players card through a handful of sponsor invitations.

Now his invites have stretched to 24 starts from which he has plucked $1,520,632 in prizemoney and rocketed to 45th on the money list.

In what is referred to as the "Charles Howell Rule", tour regulations have been amended to increase the number of events a player can compete in with sponsor invitations.

Swing doctor to the stars David Leadbetter has been blunt in his assessment of Howell.

"He's going to be the next superstar in a very short time," Leadbetter said.

Howell, who grew up nearby Augusta National Golf Club, has scored three top five and five top 10 finishes on the circuit this year.

He lost a playoff in the Greater Milwaukee Open to Shigeki Maruyama, tied for third behind David Toms at the Michelob Championship and shared fourth at the Reno–Tahoe Open.

Howell turned professional midway through last year after winning the NCAA Championship.

He played a few pro events in 2000, including the John Deere Classic where he placed third, and the Franklin Templeton Shootout, where he teamed up with Australian Adam Scott to finish fourth.

Australian Golf Union executive director Colin Phillips is confident Howell will make his mark at the Open, despite arriving without the razzamatazz that accompanied Tiger Woods' first trip here.

"The media in America is building this player up as the challenger to Tiger's throne so to be able to get him out here is a real bonus," Phillips said today.

"And he's not just someone who quietly compiles a score, he really draws the gallery to him.

"There's plenty of people still talking about when we had Tiger in Sydney for the `96 Open and I reckon the same thing will happen with Howell.

"Whatever he does, you can bet that he'll make an impact."

Howell will join highly regarded teenage compatriot Ty Tryon, South African Ernie Els, European Tour star Thomas Bjorn and local hopes Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby and Adam Scott in the field for the $A1.5 million Open.

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