GOLF: Howell reaches European Tour landmark
WILTSHIRE Ryder Cup star David Howell became the second youngest player in history to make 500 appearances on The European Tour after opening with a round of 72 on the first day of the Alstom Open de France.
Only his fellow Englishman Peter Baker, at 36, was younger than the 39 year old Howell, who is from Swindon, when he reached the milestone, which has now been achieved by 27 players.
Howell, who was presented with an engraved ice bucket by Keith Waters, The European Tour’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “It’s very satisfying. There aren’t many people who have played as many tournaments as me in the history of The European Tour, and who have as many years to go as well.
“You get this nice little award to put on the mantelpiece, and I guess you feel firmly part of the furniture of The European Tour if you reach 500. I’m probably feeling a little bit like a raggedy old sofa perhaps, but it’s nice to be part of a great sporting organisation for going on 20 years now.”
Howell has won European Tour titles in three different decades, securing his maiden victory in the 1999 Dubai Desert Classic and most recently in 2013 when, after a seven year absence, he made a welcome and emotional return to the winners’ enclosure in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
But undoubtedly the most significant of his five titles came at the peak of his powers in the 2006 campaign, when he followed up his three shot victory over Tiger Woods in the season-opening HSBC Champions with a five shot win in The European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
As a resident in nearby Weybridge, Howell’s win at Wentworth Club was a home triumph in every sense of the word and helped him to a career-high finish of third on The European Tour money list.
Howell’s annus mirabilis also included a second appearance, and indeed nine-point victory, in The Ryder Cup, having helped Europe to a record 18½-9½ triumph at Oakland Hills in 2004.
At that point, Howell appeared destined for a truly glorious career, only to suffer a slump in form and fortunes which saw him finish outside the top 100 in the money list in three of the next five seasons and, in his own words, “plumb the depths of despair”.
But the redoubtable Englishman showed glimpses of a return to form in the second half of the 2012 season, recording a pair of top five finishes and making 16 cuts in 17 events en route to finishing in 62nd place in The Race to Dubai.
The following year, he ended his title drought in superb style in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, closing with a round of 67 at St Andrews before seeing off American Peter Uihlein with a birdie on the second hole of the play-off.
He said: “I’ve always kept my desire and I want to be out here, I love my job and I love being out and being part of The European Tour. It all comes down to desire, and also your health. I’ve had my injuries along the way, and my niggles and they are still there, but I’m feeling pretty good at the moment, so there’s no reason why I can’t carry on a few years yet.
“I’m only 39, and when you look at Miguel [Angel Jiménez], who has won 14 events after the age of 40, it makes you think that if he can do it, maybe I can as well.
“I’ve had my struggles along the way. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, I would say more ups than downs but I’ve had my tough times out there as well, which are obviously character building.
"You question your commitment to the game and how much you enjoy it but I’ve come through those periods, come out the other side still realising that I love the game and love trying to get better.”
MORE SPORTS NEWS & PICTURES IN THIS WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD