DAVID Howell admitted it wasn’t a case of ‘love at first sight’ when he first played at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship but has grown to appreciate the course over the last few years.

The Swindon pro finished tied for sixth place last season, five shots behind winner Jamie Donaldson, but missed the cut on his first two visits to the course following his first appearance in the tournament in 2008.

Howell begins his campaign at 8.15am UK time alongside Darren Fichardt and Eduardo De La Riva and is hopeful of making an impression.

“There are three great tournaments with great fields and a lot of Dollars to play for, but more importantly there are world ranking points on offer,” he said.

“This first course in Abu Dhabi is a really tough one but it’s one I played pretty well on last year and the year previous wasn’t too bad either. I’ve had to grow to love the Abu Dhabi event because the first times I played it I really struggles to get round but I’m much more positive about this event in general than I was a couple of years ago.

“I will go there with a positive outlook and I’m really hopeful of doing something.”

Howell knows keeping his drives clean throughout the lengthy course could prove the key to a successful week but after a solid round of practice yesterday is feeling ready to go.

“It’s over 7,000 yards so it’s extremely long and although it’s pretty flat there is very little undulation,” he said.

“The rough is exceedingly thick and if you go in it you will be lucky to reach the green, where the rough is again really think meaning you will struggle to control any of your chip shots.

“It’s a strong test for any player and what is required is some good, accurate hitting for all four days. If you can do that you will be in with a chance.

“Length is an advantage, as it always is, but you have to hit the fairways and greens. If you don’t do that you will struggle to produce a good score.

“I hit the ball very nicely in the pro-am which is a good thing for the confidence, but the travel from South Africa has taken it out of me and I need a good night’s rest.

“I don’t really having any major concerns about any aspect of my game but I will head out there confident of having a really good week.”