Charles Howell III

One of golf’s brightest young talents takes a rather un-Daly-like approach to the game.

Charles Howell III has been busy entrenching himself near the top of the PGA money list, but he took out just enough time to tell us why it doesn’t pay to have a fupa out there on the links.

Oakmont was eating players alive during this year’s U.S. Open, was it the hardest course you’ve ever seen in tournament play?
By far. Before it was probably Augusta National, the way they set it up for the Masters. But Oakmont doesn’t even need to be set up in tournament conditions. It’s tough every day.

That’s saying something, coming from a guy who grew up so close to Augusta National?
Yeah. I was fortunate enough to play a lot of rounds there growing up. I didn’t have the appreciation for the Masters back then that I do now. The Augusta National greens are so fast, but Oakmont this year really took it to another level.

What is it about Oakmont that makes it so hard?
The USGA will set a golf course up as difficult as they can, including five- or six-inch rough. Plus, they dig the bunkers out deeper before we get there. But with the undulations of the greens, there’s nothing they can do to soften that course up, even if they wanted to.

What was the week before the Open like for you?
It was a tough week, because there’s really no way to prepare fully. There’s really no golf course you can play where you’ll find scenarios that mimic what you’re up against. I do a lot of work on clubs off the tee because you have to drive the ball in the fairway. And of course you have to work on putting, there’s no way around it. 

You’re sponsored by supplement company EAS, how important to your game is spending time at the gym?
Golf has always been caught in the Dark Ages. Not until the last few years has physical fitness even become an issue. In the old days, a lot of old golfers would get done with a round and go to the bar and drink a little bit; but those days are gone. Now there’s fitness, there are supplements?there’s this whole package to help players play better.

Where do those hours in the gym help most out on the course?
Tiger has made it cool and popular to be huge off the tee, and fitness definitely helps there. But it also helps if you want to extend your career longer than the career of a football player. I’m 27, and looking to play the game until I’m at least 50. Ten years in the NFL is a LONG time, where in golf you’re willing to make your career 30 years plus.

Since we’re talking about health, how did you feel about Angel Cabrera smoking in the fairways on his way to winning the Open?
He was born with the ability to hit the ball a very long way. He’s a big guy and he’s extremely strong, so he probably doesn’t need to work out. Now, what’s it doing on his overall health? That’s a different story. If a guy like that were to get injured, he’s going to have a lot harder time coming back.

Do you know what Tiger does to stay in shape?
I don’t know his exact routine, but on Sunday it looked like he was wearing a size smaller in the shirt.

Do you think golfers will ever start juicing in order to fill out their golf shirts?
I think that you’re just now seeing the Tour talk about drug testing, and I think it’s something that needs to be done. Players are hitting the ball farther and rough is getting deeper, so there’s definitely a danger of players using illegal substances just to keep up.

The players are getting bigger and stronger, and so are the clubs. How close is the stuff you play to the stuff we can buy at the local pro shop?
It’s basically the same equipment. I’ve replaced the shafts and stuff like that, but it’s still a shaft that you can buy at the store. 

What’s the life span for a set of your clubs?
The drivers don’t last long, because you’re hitting a golf ball with a clubhead the speed of around 120 miles an hour. They last between five and six months. Irons last until the groove wears out, which is roughly two years. I change my wedges very often for the grooves. I’ll change my 60-degree wedge once every four or five weeks. You see some guys fall in love with a three wood or a putter and they have it forever, but the wedges are a little different.

Are your sponsors constantly trying to get you to play their latest and greatest stuff?
One cool thing that we do at Callaway is that we’re always testing new product. They’ve done a good job in getting the Tour players involved in testing the product. It makes the product better and helps make the average golfer better.

You, Tiger, and Bubba Watson stand at the tee and swing away. Who’s hitting their second shot last?
I think Bubba wins; he’s definitely the longest. I can keep up with Tiger, at times, but Bubba has both of us beat. He’s long, but his swing isn’t exactly a thing of beauty.