Charles Howell on his improving golf game

Charles Howell III has five top-10 finishes already this season on the PGA Tour. Hunter Martin/Getty Images

When you're born in Augusta, Ga., the home of the Masters, you're probably expected to be great at golf.

Charles Howell III, the 13-year pro who has five top-10 finishes already this year, knows he isn't there yet.

"I'm still learning to get over the hump," said the 33-year-old Howell, who finished 10th at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday. "Even after all these years on the course, I'm finally starting to feel more comfortable."

Howell, who is preparing for this week's Players' Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., spent a few minutes with Playbook to talk golf, playing at Oklahoma State and his funny nickname.

Not to start with a sore subject, but you've won twice in 13 years even though you're consistently near the top of the leaderboard weekly. What is holding you back from No. 3?

"That's a great question. It's something I obviously have given a ton of thought about. I get myself in position to win a tournament, and I need to stay with my game plan. But I think I'm trying to win tournaments so badly that I try too hard when there are nine holes remaining. I force things a bit. I need to play the same way that got me here. I need to let things happen. I know it's a lot easier said than done. I need to play the last nine holes the same way I did the first 63."

You're already having a better season this year than last, with more than $1.5 million in earnings. What did you change about your game?

"I've spent more time on my short game. I've been very consistent in my practice. I'm doing a better job of disciplining myself. I'm using that time and energy during tournament week getting myself ready. Look at the top players in the world: The one thing they all have is a wonderful short game."

Growing up in the golf capital of Augusta, what was that like?

"I started playing when I was 7. I was having fun. I still am. When you grow up there, golf was the cool sport to play. It wasn't just about football or basketball. When the Masters was rolling around every year, all of us junior golfers would work on our games. It was an awesome experience."

Tell me about your time at Oklahoma State, easily one of the best golf schools in the nation. As an individual, you also won the Division I championship and the Haskins Award for the top college golfer.

"While being recruited, I understand that golf was important there. Golfers mattered, just like the football players and basketball players. Mike Holder [currently the athletic director] was the golf coach then and produced a ton of great players [Scott Verplank, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan]. He taught us discipline, how to act and how important hard work is. He showed us the ways to succeed."

You're working with Mizuno on its "Play Famously" campaign. That's where average golfers are "joining" your team, along with Luke Donald and others. What does it take for an average golfer to become a great golfer?

"First, you've got to love the game, even in times when your game is not that good. You have to be disciplined on your technique and your emotions and you need to do this week in and week out. That's the hardest for people to understand. In this program, these golfers are seeing us behind-the-scenes and having the ability to step in our shoes. It's more than just watching a tournament on television. They see the tour van, the driving range and the locker rooms."

You sound more confident these days. How is that translating on the course?

"I think through time and age, I'm still learning the game. It's like a recipe. You put in the practice and you'll get it out in return. I feel more comfortable these days. It doesn't guarantee you success, but it certainly sets the odds in your favor."

If you weren't a pro golfer, what would you be doing?

"I love the stock market. I love finances. I'd probably get into that world. But it was always golf growing up."

Now tell me about your nickname "Chucky Three Sticks."

"That was started by Charlie Rymer when he was broadcasting for ESPN. He was there when I first became a pro in 2000. He started it, and it stuck. Hey, you could always be called something worse!"