HOWELL FIGHTBACK LAUNCHED

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Ryder Cup star David Howell is not ready yet to declare his slump over – but he knows he has taken a huge step in the right direction.

Ryder Cup star David Howell is not ready yet to declare that his slump is over – but he knows he has taken a huge step in the right direction.
Howell had his best round for more than two years yesterday (Sunday), a closing 64 in the Portuguese Open at Oitavos Dunes near Estoril, but it was not quite enough to bring him victory.
The Swindon golfer went into a play-off with Scot Alastair Forsyth and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy – and after Forsyth had been eliminated on the second hole, Howell made the error on the next which decided the title.
“I had a four-iron into the green, and that is the shot I have struggled with throughout my career,” he said, after suffering his fourth sudden-death defeat out of four on the European Tour.
“Even before the play-off when I was on the range, that was the shot that I was trying to avoid.”
Howell, who pulled it wide and then failed to get up and down, decided to change coaches only two weeks ago – after a nightmare run which saw him crash from being a world top 10 player to one well outside the leading 200. He did not have a single top-20 finish all of last season.
This was a massive improvement then for the man who just a year ago was one shot off the lead after the first round of The Masters – but who this week will have to be content with watching it on television.
Forsyth was disappointed too, after his hopes of a second win in three weeks ended when he hit his tee shot into a bush and had to take a penalty drop.
For both him and Howell, things got worse when they arrived at Lisbon Airport and found their flights had been cancelled because of the snow in Britain.
It would have been a significant victory for the Glaswegian, who birdied the last two holes to make it a three-way play-off. He would have become Scotland’s top-ranked player, ending Colin Montgomerie’s 17-year occupancy of that position.
For Bourdy, it was a second Tour title and for France a second successive winner – after Thomas Levet’s triumph in Spain the previous Sunday.
The 25-year-old from Bordeaux was hugely relieved to have won the trophy.
After one hole of the final round, he led by five; yet after three bogeys in the next five, he was two behind.
“It was so difficult in the first nine holes – I was plus three and I lost a little bit of my game,” he said.
“I did not want to see the leaderboard and I thought maybe minus four or five on the back nine would be okay.”
He collected four birdies, then stayed alive with a 12-foot par putt on the second extra hole.
From Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent

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