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GOLF: Seven-year itch at an end for Howell
7:31pm Sunday 29th September 2013 in Sport
WILTSHIRE star David Howell ended a seven-year victory drought and a 100 per cent losing record in play-offs by capturing the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on a day of high drama at St Andrews.
Howell clinched victory, and with it a cheque for €589,561, by defeating Peter Uihlein with a birdie on the second extra hole after both men had finished on 23 under par.
It was Howell’s first win since the 2006 BMW PGA Championship, and moved the affable Englishman – whose amateur playing partner was actor Hugh Grant – to 12th place in The Race to Dubai.
Howell had previously lost all four of the play-offs in which he had competed: to Thomas Levet at the 2001 British Masters, to Thomas Björn at the 2005 British Masters, to Stephen Dodd at the 2005 Irish Open, and to Grégory Bourdy at the 2008 Open de Portugal.
But after he and Uihlein had both parred the first extra hole, Howell got the proverbial monkey off his back with an eight foot birdie putt on the 18th which sparked scenes of celebration at the ‘Home of Golf’.
It completed a heart-warming tale of redemption for one of the Tour’s most likeable individuals, who revealed some dubious decisions he had made, both on and off the course, contributed to his drastic slide down the world ranking from a career-high of ninth place in 2006.
After making his Ryder Cup debut in 2004, Howell finished seventh and third in the money list over the next two years, only to lose his way in subsequent seasons.
He had been in danger of failing to fulfil his talent, but the endless hours Howell has put in on the practice range with his coach Jonathan Wallet have paid off in spectacular fashion, and the 38 year old is now hopeful of recapturing his former glories.
Howell, whose wife Emily is expecting twins in December, said: “It’s been an interesting seven years. We’ve talked a lot about the ups and downs of it all, and the downs were really pretty low.
“I lost my way in life and on the course, as well, but obviously it’s a really sweet moment and life off the course life has never been better.
To finally win a massive championship really seals things for me. I’m in a very happy place now – it really doesn’t get much better than winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the home of golf.”
Overnight leader Uihlein, who bogeyed the first hole but rallied with four birdies in a round of 69, was understandably disappointed after coming so close to securing the second victory of his fledgling European Tour career, but could console himself with a cheque for €393,038 which moved the American into the top ten of The Race to Dubai.
He said: “Hats off to David, he played great and made a nice birdie on the 18th, so congrats to him. He made more putts than I did at the end of the day, so I’m proud of him. I just didn’t make the putts when I needed to, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Third place was shared on 22 under par by England’s Tom Lewis, whose round of 64 was the joint lowest of the day, and Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who had led at one point but dropped costly shots at the 13th and 15th holes.
Lewis’ cheque for €199,194 guarantees him a place on The European Tour next term, whilst Lowry moves into the top 30 of The Race to Dubai.
The team event was won by Frenchman Thomas Levet and his amateur playing partner David Sayer, who finished on a combined 40 under par.
Levet had also looked on course to walk away with the individual prize after a burst of birdies on the front none, including five in a row from the first, but a double bogey seven at the 14th hole derailed his charge, and he finished in a tie for seventh place on 20 under par.
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