Daily News readers knew him when

Los Angeles golf fans discovered Charles Howell III five years, almost to the day, before his Nissan Open victory Sunday. He blistered the front 9 on the Saturday in 2002. Scroll down to read my column from that coming-out party.
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On the green

Phil Mickelson’s putt from the fringe takes a hop and comes up maybe 10 feet short of the flagstick, and that’s the final twist of a gut-wrenching Sunday at Riviera Country Club. Charles Howell’s chip almost goes in, going four feet past on the right. Mickelson misses the par putt. Now it’s up to Howell … who hammers home the birdie putt for the win! Howell takes off his cap, looks skyward in relief, and accepts handshakes all around. Good for him, a smart, courteous, hard-working kid to whom this obviously matters a lot.

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Tee shots at No. 14

It’s a 176-yard par-3. Phil Mickelson’s 7-iron is way short, barely on the green. Charles Howell’s 7 fluffs up right next to Phil’s. Anybody know what time it gets dark out here? At the start of the playoff, all the pressure and significance was on Howell’s shoulders, the 27-year-old from Augusta, Ga., having 10 seconds to go with only one win on the PGA Tour. Wonder if, as the playoff goes on, his nerves will have settled.

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Over to you, Phil

Phil Mickelson’s long catches the rough and leaves him a 12-foot putt for the birdie and the win. The putt slides left of the cup and almost three feet past. Mickelson and Charles Howell both make their short putts, and we go to the 14th.

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The drives at No. 10

Charles Howell knocks his drive (a 3-wood) onto a cart path behind some trees to the left of the fairway on the 314-yard 10th hole. Phil Mickelson drives into the fairway. Howell could take a free drop but elects to hit right off the pavement to take advantage of a clear opening through the tree trunks. But his wedge shot strikes a tree branch and ends up in the rough left of the green. Howell hits again, his third shot, to within two feet of the cup. A weird, desperate par seems likely now.

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Still going

Charles Howell sinks the pressure putt, and Phil Mickelson claps him on the shoulder as they walk on to the 10th tee, the second hole of sudden death. The 10th is where Howell lost the 2003 playoff to Mike Weir. Is this good stuff, or what? Yeah, it’s good stuff.

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The third shots

Sudden-death playoff, 18th hole. Phil Mickelson’s long putt fromthe right fringe almost bends in! He taps in for par to put all kinds of pressure on Charles Howell. And now Howell’s chip comes up 4 feet short! The tournament comes down to this putt.

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Out of the rough

Phil Mickelson’s second shot crosses to the right fringe of the green, and he’ll have a long putt for birdie. Charles Howell’s skips over the green, leaving a chip with little room to roll. Rate Mickelson a slight advantage.

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The playoff begins

They start at the 18th, and (if necessary) will go to the 10th, then the 14th, then the 18th. Phil Mickelson drives left, same as minutes ago on 18, which didn’t work out too well. Charles Howell drives right, like last time, which worked out better. So they’re in the rough, and stay tuned.

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