HOWELL’S INJURY MISERY CONTINUES

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Andy Murray is not the only world-class British sportsman who cannot be where he wants to be at the moment.

Andy Murray is not the only world-class British sportsman who cannot be where he wants to be at the moment.
While Murray sits out Wimbledon with a wrist injury, golfer David Howell misses yet another tournament this week with the same problem.
And so injury-prone has Howell become that he was thankful to survive Luke Donald’s wedding celebrations on Santorini at the weekend with no further mishaps – especially once the plate-smashing started.
“The most frustrating thing is that I put in as much time and effort into my career as anyone,” he said from the Greek island. “I had a masterplan for this year, but that’s just been thrown up in the air now.”
Last Saturday was also Howell’s 32nd birthday – as well as Colin Montgomerie’s 44th – but while much has still been achieved in the past 12 months, last year he was sitting pretty at 10th in the world and now he is 39th and powerless to prevent himself dropping further.
Since the Masters in April, where from one off the lead after an opening 70 he fell away to 44th, the Ryder Cup star has played just 20 competitive holes.
First there was the recurrence of back trouble which forced his withdrawal from the US Tour’s Wachovia Championship after one round and the Players’ Championship after two holes. It also forced the abandonment of a planned trip to Macau and, desperate though he was to return for his defence of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, he pulled out of that too.
Attention then turned to getting himself right for the second major of the year, the US Open, but after travelling out to Pittsburgh and playing nine holes of practice Howell decided the wrist he had sprained hitting balls eight days earlier just was not up to tackling as tough a course as Oakmont.
Now this week’s French Open has been added to the list of events he has had to skip – and the frustration is growing.
He said: “I’ve been so bored. At one point I watched a whole season of ‘Prison Break’ episodes in three days. Mind-numbing stuff.
“Apart from one round I’ve not played for the best part of three months now and golf’s all about momentum. I’m very ambitious and I miss playing golf. It’s also stressful not knowing how well you are going to play when you do come back.
“I hope it’s the European Open next week and I hope to follow that with the Scottish Open and then the Open at Carnoustie, but we’ll just have to see how it is when I start practising again.
“I’ve come back from previous lay-offs and done well straightaway. I wasn’t playing well before I got injured (Howell had not recorded a single top-20 finish in 10 starts) and maybe starting again with a clean slate it will be different.
“The good thing is that there is still so much to play for this season and it’s not a Ryder Cup year.”
One issue that will have to be resolved, however, is his US Tour card. To meet membership requirements over there Howell would have to play in eight more counting events or seek a medical extension.
“Unless something miraculous happens – like I win the Open and therefore make it into the FedEx Cup play-offs over there – I can’t see me getting my 15 tournaments in over there.
“But in any case I need to think very carefully about what’s best for me given how many injuries I’ve been suffering and all the travelling I’ve been doing.”
Howell has suffered since childhood from Sheuermann’s disease, a condition related to curvature of the spine.
“Golf and my body don’t go together,” he once said and his physio Dale Richardson has told him that he has never had anybody as difficult to work on.
“I stand very awkwardly to the ball and we can only deduce that it’s something to do with the condition – and why I keep breaking down.”
Howell might well have been the European Tour’s number one last year but for back and shoulder trouble. He finished third behind Ryder Cup team-mates Padraig Harrington and Paul Casey after holding a huge lead thanks to his PGA win and his memorable head-to-head victory over Tiger Woods in Shanghai at the start of the season.
Wentworth remains his last title, but there was, of course, his part in another European record success at the Ryder Cup.
That left him itching to prove himself in the States and he started there this year saying: “I’m looking forward to really contending down the stretch and hopefully picking up an event or two.
“It was quite well documented towards the end of last year that I probably played too much and was sort of going from week-to-week with different ailments that held me back a little bit.
“It’s up to me to sort of manage my year well and try to stay away from the problems that I’ve had in previous years to allow me to play at the level that I know I can.
“All in all, things are going well, but I’m sure it’s going to be a continuous battle for me.”
As he has since discovered, it sure is.
By Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent

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