PORTUGAL MASTERS: Swindon's Howell upbeat despite late slip
DAVID Howell might have blotted his copybook with a double bogey at the last but the Broome Manor pro was in high spirits following his opening round at the Portugal Masters.
The Swindonian followed up his first European Tour title in seven years last week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with a two-under-par 69 at Oceanico Victoria yesterday.
That left the 38-year-old four shots off the overnight lead and in a useful position to improve not only his Race to Dubai ranking but also increase his hopes of Ryder Cup selection in 2014.
In a threeball with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Paul Lawrie, Howell was one-over at the halfway point following a birdie at the second and back-to-back bogeys on seven and eight.
However, after the turn the former world number nine was in inspired mood, birdying five holes between 12 and 17.
Howell had previously missed a five-footer at the 11th but his approach play buoyed him and that was in evidence at the 12th.
Two useful shots set Howell up for a birdie four and he supplemented that with a long putt for a two at the next.
Another gain at the 14th followed and Howell then pitched to within an inch from 60 yards away on the 15th.
A further birdie on the 17th took the two-time Ryder Cup hero to within two of the lead, before he went into the drink with his second from the rough on 18.
Despite the disappointing end, Howell was in philosophical mood about how he had performed.
“I hit a poor shot at the last but these things happen. I’m not going to beat myself up about it,” he said.
“It was a solid front nine but I was putting poorly and it was almost a case of after the lord mayor’s show.
“I turned it round and played beautifully on the back nine and got in the zone a bit.
“Four-under would have been a really good round but I won’t be too downhearted about it.
“There are 72 holes in a tournament, not 18.
“The greens weren’t great this afternoon and the scoring was definitely not as good as this morning, so hopefully on Friday I’ll have the chance to shoot a good score.
“There was a lovely crowd following us as we were one of the signature groups and it was nice to continue playing some good stuff having come off a win.”
Howell was due to begin his second round at 8.40am this morning.
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