- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2011

NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA. (AP) - Charles Howell III needs a passport to pack with his putter.

He’s off to Royal St. George’s and a spot in the British Open because of his third-place finish Sunday in the AT&T National. Howell locked up a spot because he had the highest finish from among the top five of those golfers not already qualified for the British Open.

He shot a 4-under 66 and was part of a three-way tie for third, four strokes back of winner Nick Watney.

Howell knew playing in a major tournament for the first time this season was on the line and tried not to let the pressure take the focus off playing well at Aronimink Golf Club.

“I thought about it. It was in the back of my head,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean anything. It definitely doesn’t help you play better, I know that much.”

Howell clinched a spot not far from his childhood home. His father had his residency at the children’s hospital of Philadelphia and Howell lived in Ardmore until he was 3.

“Obviously, I’m thrilled,” he said. “But the more important thing was today.”

Howell was strong throughout and quickly separated himself from a field of other British Open hopefuls that included Webb Simpson and Steve Marino.

He made his move on a bogey-free front nine, with birdies on the first, sixth and ninth holes.

“I just kept trying to push ahead,” Howell said. “It almost made it a little bit easier to just forget about it on the closing holes.”

Howell was one of three players to post four rounds in the 60s this week and has made the cut in 15 of 19 starts this year.

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RICKIE, LOSE THAT NUMBER: Rickie Fowler started the day as the leader at Aronimink and ended it wondering how it all went wrong.

The 22-year-old Fowler, dressed in Sunkist orange, had a miserable Sunday with a 4-over 74 and finished tied for 13th. He remains winless in 47 starts as a pro.

Fowler shared the lead with eventual winner Nick Watney, but was nine shots behind when it was over. His bad day hit fast with a double-bogey on the par-four second hole and he bogeyed the fourth. Fowler could never recover.

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