SOUTHPORT, England -- To say David Howell hasn't made much noise lately is probably an understatement, but after firing a three-under 67 in the final round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale on Sunday, to get to 12 over for the tournament, he said he's still got time to make Nick Faldo's Ryder Cup team.
"Who knows? If I win the Bridgestone Invitational and do well at the PGA, there are still some big tournaments left," said the four-time winner on the European Tour, whose 67, the second best round of the week, was marred by three three-putts, including one at the last.
Howell, 33, was one of Europe's stars when he hit the European Shot of the Year at the 2004 Ryder Cup, but injuries quickly brought him down to earth. He tore a stomach muscle while warming up for the second round of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and he didn't play again for nearly two months.
Back at full strength in '06, Howell won twice on the European Tour, including the HSBC Champions, where he outscored playing partner Tiger Woods. According to Howell's bio in the British Open players guide, Woods was so moved by the performance that he gave Howell a new nickname: Cool Dude.
Then came more physical problems: Howell was sidelined by shoulder and then lower-back injuries in 2007. He calls the entire season "a write-off," and says his physical problems led to swing flaws, a downward spiral that will sound familiar to fans of David Duval. (The former No. 1 rebounded from an 83 on Saturday to shoot 71 Sunday.)
Howell attributes his improved health this year to continued work with his trainer, but, "Nothing out of the ordinary," he said. "No lotus poses or anything." He has a terrible record in the Open, with six missed cuts in 10 starts, and thought he was headed for more of the same after two consecutive three-putts on the eighth and ninth holes Thursday. He said to his caddie, "What are we doing here?"
After signing for a first-round 76, Howell bounced back with a 71 to make the cut with two shots to spare, then added a 78 in Saturday's stiff winds before his Sunday 67. At 12 over, he was tied for 27th place when he finished and moved into a tie for seventh by day's end. That eclipsed his best Open finish, a tie for 42nd in 1998, also at Birkdale.