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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Relaxed Howell ready to end his victory drought

Underachiever looking in fine fettle for Sea Island title bid

Charles Howell III is enjoying full fitness for the first time in a long while
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Tournament starts 2.30pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 6.30pm

Palmer's top tip
Charles Howell 28-1

US Tour earnings of $35m with only two victories. The wealth of Charles Howell III underlines how richness can be achieved in modern golf without winning many trophies, but the long-awaited CH3 title hat-trick could be completed on Sunday in the RSM Classic.

Howell is ignored by many in the punting community because he has spent a decade failing to get over the line in front. He has spurned numerous opportunities to build on his 2002 Michelob Championship breakthrough and his 2007 Nissan Open follow-up. There are grounds, though, for believing the drought is about to end.

Howell is enjoying full fitness for the first time in a long while. At the end of last year he had surgery on troublesome glands in his mouth, then discovered a stress fracture in his rib in April. He returned to action in July and lost a playoff for the Quicken Loans National.

That near-miss, where a lack of expectation probably aided performance, was followed by some mediocre golf, but in the last month Howell has looked stronger and dangerous, building on solid efforts in Asia with fourth place in the OHL Classic in Mexico on Sunday. He closed with a pair of 66s in the OHL, showcasing such exquisite control that he must be taken seriously for the RSM.


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The fact Howell ventured to Asia for the CIMB Classic, CJ Cup and HSBC highlights his current well-being. He has never been a comfortable traveler, and has turned down Open starts in the past, but at the age of 38 he seems more content than ever mentally and physically. You will do well to find a more relaxed and happy man in front of the golfing media these days. A share of 19th place in Korea was followed by 15th in China, before he caught the eye in Mexico.

Howell is based in Florida but has a house in Sea Island, Georgia, the state of his birth. Local ties and course experience are two reasons why he has such a good record in the event at Sea Island, where he closed with a 62 for sixth place in 2010. Chucky was seventh in 2012 and ninth in 2015. Another bonus is his low ball-flight, which combats the typical breeze at this venue.

Next best
Ollie Schniederjans 33-1

Howell might make a long overdue return to the winner's enclosure, while Ollie Schniederjans could go close to a maiden triumph. Schniederjans is also at ease keeping his ball low and plotting a safe passage through windy conditions.

Schniederjans arrived at the RSM 12 months ago having just missed three consecutive cuts at the start of his US Tour rookie campaign. Despite confidence being low, Sea Island was a perfect fit for him, and he carded four rounds in the 60s for sixth place. Four further US Tour top-tens have followed, most recently a tremendous runner-up effort in the Wyndham Championship in August, where Henrik Stenson needed to perform heroics to deny the young Texan the trophy.

Schniederjans has started this season with form figures of 17-23-19, and he made a late decision to skip Mexico last week to freshen up for this more suitable venue.

Other selections
Zach Johnson 33-1
Hudson Swafford 80-1
Ryan Armour 80-1

The RSM-sponsored Zach Johnson always does lots of promotional work for this event, which may have hampered his performance in the past, but the dual Major champion is probably hungrier than ever to contend for the title this time. Johnson is eager to end a victory drought which stretches back to the 2015 Open.

Expect Johnson to apply himself properly in practice and the Sea Island resident to give his fans plenty to cheer. The course suits accurate sorts who can handle a breeze, and he closed with a 64 in Mexico last week to suggest his A-game has arrived at an opportune moment.

Hudson Swafford is another local man who hits his ball well enough to triumph on this terrain. He contended to the halfway stage 12 months ago, before fading at the weekend. He has since become a US Tour champion and is better equipped to sustain a challenge.

Complete your staking plan with Ryan Armour, who did not appreciate the going change in Mexico. He dropped down the leaderboard on a soggy OHL weekend, but this precise operator won the Sanderson Farms Championship in fine style at the end of last month and could be a factor in a test of accuracy this week.

Armour missed five cuts in a row before his RSM debut in 2014, but made the cut at Sea Island, then he missed five consecutive cuts again prior to his next RSM outing in 2016, yet finished 36th. With self-belief at an all-time high, and the weather set to help, flying Ryan must be respected.

Others to note
Brian Gay
The Texan, like Armour, faded after a promising start in Mexico. A tempting 100-1 chance given how well suited he is to the Seaside Course.

Kevin Kisner
The 2015 RSM champion is making his first start since a successful Presidents Cup debut. He must be respected but there is no juice in his price.

Brian Harman
The left-hander, another locally-based runner, finished fifth in the CJ Cup and eighth in the HSBC. Obvious threat, but has missed the cut in this event the last two years.

Matt Kuchar
A St. Simons Island resident going to post close to home, but the Open runner-up signed off with a 78 in the HSBC last time out and missed the RSM cut last year.

Cheng-tsung Pan
The former world number one amateur finished sixth on his RSM debut last year. A youngster who is improving and dangerous.

Patton Kizzire
The OHL Classic champion has a good opportunity to maintain his gallop. Lives in Sea Island and knows these courses well.

Staking plan
C Howell
2pts each-way 28-1 general
O Schniederjans
1.5pts each-way 33-1 BoyleSports
Z Johnson
1.5pts each-way 33-1 general
H Swafford
0.5pt each-way 80-1 Betfair, Coral, Paddy Power
R Armour
0.5pt each-way 80-1 Coral


The lowdown

Courses Seaside Course and Plantation Course, Sea Island, Georgia

Prize money $6.2m ($1.08m to the winner)

Length Seaside 7,005 yards Plantation 7,058 yards

Par Seaside 70 Plantation 72

Field 156

Course record – 72 holes 260 Kevin Kisner (2015) 18 holes 60 Tommy Gainey (2012)

Course winners taking part Heath Slocum, Ben Crane, Tommy Gainey, Chris Kirk. Robert Streb, Kevin Kisner, Mackenzie Hughes

When to bet By 2.30pm tomorrow

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 6.30pm tomorrow

Time difference Georgia is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – OHL Classic 1 P Kizzire (70-1), 2 R Fowler (9-1), 3 S W Kim (150-1), T4 C Howell (40-1), M Piller (250-1)

Course overview The RSM Classic was the McGladrey Classic until being renamed in 2015 for 'global branding purposes'.

The Seaside Course, crafted by Tom Fazio and used as regular practice turf by Sea Island residents like Davis Love and Brian Harman, became a US Tour venue for the first time in 2010.

The strength of the sea breezes obviously impacts greatly on the scoring at this exposed layout, while heavily undulating fairways and fast greens add to the test.

Totals of 14, 15, 16, 14 and 14 under par topped the leaderboard after 72 holes for the first five years.

This is a fiddly layout where precision irons and sound course management, along with solid scrambling around tricky greens, are the keys to success.

The 429-yard par-four fourth is one of the toughest assignments, usually averaging well over par, while the two par-fives (the seventh and 15th) are the easiest pick-up holes.

The 368-yard par-four eighth is another part of the course where players will be expecting to make birdie.

The fairways on this links, which is similar to the more famous Harbour Town Links in South Carolina, are flanked by enormous bunkers, waste areas and marshland.

Two years ago, for the first time, the field played one of the first two rounds at the nearby Plantation Course, an old parkland track upgraded by Rees Jones in 1998.

Large creeks and lakes are a feature of the Plantation Course, along with dense sets of oak and cedar trees.

The Plantation lowered overall scoring.

The final two rounds are on the Seaside Course.

Story of last year A five-man playoff resulted after a logjam at 17 under par. Mackenzie Hughes emerged triumphant for a maiden victory, with Blayne Barber, Billy Horschel, Henrik Norlander and Camilo Villegas sharing second

Weather forecast Sunny throughout, with light to moderate breezes

Type of player suited to challenge Sea Island is a popular resort for professional golfers to live and those with local knowledge will be favoured. The Seaside Course lends itself to precision players and those with a tidy short-game. It is not a links which can be overpowered. The Plantation Course is a parkland layout, creating an all-round test for the first 36 holes

Key attribute Accuracy

Local ties and course experience are two reasons why he has such a good record in the event
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