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Young American players beginning to emerge?

Moments after Charles Howell III finished second at the Sony Open, he bristled when asked about young Americans' vanishing act on the PGA Tour.

Ben Curtis is the only American in his 20s with a major. Curtis and Jonathan Byrd are the only U.S. players under 30 with multiple wins.

"I think it's ridiculous," Howell said. "I don't understand it to be honest with you. I think American golf under 30 is fine. If you look across the board, if you look at guys playing nowadays, I don't buy into that, no."

Indeed, it has become a sensitive topic.

But the last few weeks on the PGA Tour have offered some hope, starting with the 27-year-old Howell.

He had two chances to win in his first three tournaments, after an offseason in which he poured the majority of his time into putting. Three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine put a brief scare into Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines. Howell needed eagle on the final hole to force a playoff and hit a 3-wood from a tough lie in the rough to the middle of the green.

Woods called it "one of the best shots I've seen him hit."

"The lie wasn't all that good, but he pulled it off," Woods said. "That shows you he's heading in the right direction."

Howell had company at the Buick Invitational.

Brandt Snedeker, 26, opened with a 61 and remained atop the leaderboard going into the final round but finished third. Jeff Quinney, the former U.S. Amateur champion, tied for fourth at the Bob Hope Classic. He was tied for the lead at Torrey Pines, then stumbled over the final five holes and tied for seventh.

Meanwhile, Howell moved up to No. 43 in the world rankings after starting the year at No. 82. He must stay inside the top 50 in the world or the top 10 on the money list (No. 3) through March to get into the Masters.

 

January 31, 2007




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