WILTSHIRE golfer David Howell is hoping his tied fourth finish at the French Open will be the catalyst for a return to his best.

The Broome Manor professional shared the overnight lead with Dane Anders Hansen going into the final round in France, and despite losing the lead thanks to a bad start to his final 18 holes, he battled back to earn his first top 10 finish in nearly a year.

Howell looked comfortable throughout his four rounds in France, and although he ended three shots behind eventual winner Marcel Siem, the former Ryder Cup player is hopeful the impressive finish will help him climb the world rankings from his current position of 350.

“All in all I am delighted,” he said.

“Maybe I didn’t finish it off and I am disappointed I wasn’t able to go on and win, but there are so many positives to take from the week here and overall I played some pretty good stuff.

“I am very happy with the way I hit the ball, and maybe it could have been better, but I am proud, especially as I have never made the cut here before.

“It is nearly a year now since I last finished in the top 10, and it has been hard, but hopefully now I can do it on a more regular basis.

“It should move me up the rankings a fair bit and the prize money is good too, so hopefully I can keep it up and keep getting better.”

Howell’s final round at Le Golf National started in the worst possible way with bogeys at the first and third holes, but he was pleased with the way he battled back to earn himself a top five finish.

“I snatched at the tee shot on the third and that is really not what I wanted to do at all, but I came back into it at six and that was pleasing.

“I had numerous chances that could have gone down but they didn’t, and I was too far back by the time I got to the end of my round.

“The last four holes are hard, and you can only really hold on on them which is what I did.”

Howell went into the event knowing a top five finish would give him a chance of earning the one spot on offer for The Open Championship in two weeks time, but despite achieving his goal he missed out because Siem had also not already qualified for the tournament at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

“The first thing I asked when I came off the course was whether Marcel had already qualified, and I was told he hadn’t,” Howell said.

“It would have been great to play at The Open, but there is another chance to get there in Scotland next week and that is my target now.”